Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ed to Katie and back again

Ed to Katie

I enjoyed your presentation and have a method that you might consider. Please see the attached abstracts I presented at a recent meeting and let me know if you have questions.

Katie to Ed

Thank you. I actually have data that would be relevant to your method and would love to apply it. Would you mind sending the code?

Ed to Katie

Please find attached the poster I recently presented using a different disease. You can see the results we obtained in the following regions and their interpretations. I think this has the potential to be powerful when looking at the patients you studied.

Katie to Ed

The results are lovely and I completely agree that there are some potentially interesting findings using my data. If I could take a look at the code you used, I’ll start running the analysis soon and get back to you with results.

Ed to Katie

I use code written by X to do step 1, Y to perform step 2 and Z to work through step 3. It’s a relatively straightforward process and should be useful.

Katie to Ed (not sent, but written)

Give Me The Code or stop talking about how useful it is! I said yes! I’ll do it! But I’m not writing the code myself – I simply don’t have time between juggling projects and making presentations and taking meetings.

Plus, I don’t write code myself. This should probably shame me greatly since it’s such a vital part of my job, but I don’t tend to be great at it. Therefore if I know there is code and you have the letters and numbers that form said code, I’d like to have a copy of it so I don’t have to spend weeks recreating stuff that already exists! Why must you make me feel guilty and inferior for taking the easy way out?

Give Me The Code. Please.

Katie to Ed (written and sent)

It sounds straightforward and makes perfect sense. Can you offer advice on where to get those separate components or would you prefer to take a look at the data yourself? Either way is fine – I’m more than happy to help however I can. Thanks!

Ed to Katie

I use a couple different machines and would like to analyze the data myself. If you can give me certain files, I should be all set. I’m excited to see how my methods can contribute to this project!

It was at this point that I sat back and sighed. At myself, of course, not Ed. I tend to assume that people are out to get me. That they want me to work constantly and read everything and be far more knowledgeable and organized than I am. In this case, I don’t think it was true. He was willing to help – and, I assume, had been from the beginning – but in my attempts to make his life easier, I kept asking for code he wanted to use himself.

It’s a learning process for me – figuring people out, discovering what’s expected from each potential collaborator. It can range from who returns email to which person needs to be paged. Estimates of how long it takes to get on someone’s calendar to who has the most political power to move proposals and grants through the proper channels. Who’s lovely to speak with and who is a bit too aggressive for my delicate sensibilities. Who responds to favors with an ‘of course!’ and who gets offended by their very suggestion.

The good news is I’m getting it. I’m not afraid – with my current skill set and in this particular environment – to push and push until I get the answer I need. A year ago, I probably would have ducked my head and forgot about the analysis because of my interpretation that Ed didn’t want to share his code. But I honestly don’t have time (or any great idea of where to start) to write it from scratch. But sending a few extra emails and dropping off a CD of data this afternoon should enable a potentially valuable collaboration with a man I like and respect.

I’ve noticed more and more that people are willing to help me out. I’m not new anymore – I’m one of them and they protect and help me according to that status.

The bad news is I still want to leave. I’m keeping my eye on next August for a moving date and will start to watch job postings in another few months. The idea of starting over – of finding out all those little details that make life so much easier – is exhausting. I’m comfortable here, but not very happy. I’m productive, but not fulfilled. This is good – sometimes it’s incredible – but it’s not enough. I think I can do better.

But for today, I triumphed over my instinct to stay home and sleep all day and to hide when someone didn’t immediately offer up the code I wanted. It’s coming along – being here is teaching me some important lessons.

As far as science, I guess I’ll let you know how Ed’s analysis goes. It will be one more component of an already complicated and extensive study. I suppose I could view my career much the same - a slow collection of separate components that may not individually be huge or important, but eventually will pool to make me relatively good at my job.


The Contessa said...

I love your written but not sent response - I think like that all the time!!! LOL

People are damn hard to figure out. You are doing pretty well with it.... better than some!

EA said...

Congratulations on figuring him out!
I'm confused as to why wouldn't he just come out and say, hey, I think this would be great, want me to try it?
But, then I guess that would be weird 'cause it's your data. I wouldn't want to just hand my data over to somebody.
Man, I can see how the etiquette gets tricky in research...
Again, wow, congratulations on figuing this out.

A Female Scientist said...

Data in academia is a very priced commodity. I liked the way you dealt with the issue. I think that in such issues the most important thing will be making sure that the expectations are same on both sides. e.g. there is always the question of first authorship on the paper which comes out of the analysis. If he uses the same data to build a better pipeline for data analysis and uses this data as a validation set....will he include you as an author and so on.

Anonymous said...

yes, so complicated! i would have assumed the same thing re him giving you the code...

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