Wednesday, 3 August 2011


Have you ever had an idea for a research project that, as far as you knew, no one else was doing, only to find later that other people had the same idea at about the same time? Yes, there are instances of intellectual theft, but sometimes it seems like there is just something in the air (or water).

[Maybe this phenomenon is analogous to the one in which people think they are giving their baby a cool and unique name, only to find that every other kid of the same age is named Olivia or Logan?]

Some research projects arise from a synthesis of little bits of information and ideas that develop from reading, listening, and thinking -- perhaps over time or perhaps in a sudden burst of inspiration. You think you are the only one to have this idea because you haven't seen anything in the literature or at conferences to indicate anyone else is working on this.

But then, what seemed like open territory suddenly seems a bit crowded.

Has this happened to you? It just happened to some of my colleagues and me.

What you do next depends on whether you and the other researchers are interested in cooperating (or at least communicating) or competing.

Tomorrow's post: initiating communication with other research groups about parallel research

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