Next Wave Case Study Review


In this case study, the tenured professor, Lucy Jones, should have had more sensitivity and been more sharing with Maxwell Montgomery in regard to her own findings and how they interacted with his results. It is unfortunate that "secrecy" is becoming more prevalent these days and discouraging the free exchange of information, which is the lifeblood of science. Jones should not only have discussed her ideas with Maxwell but should also have offered him the opportunity to be involved in developing and evaluating the potential cancer treatment. This could be a boost to Montgomery's career rather than cause him to fear being scooped by Jones, with all the subsequent consequences that young, untenured professors might experience. In discussing and developing a joint program, Montgomery should be clearly credited for his contributions in developing the data set and its initial interpretation. Montgomery's student, Smith, should participate in developing and following through on various aspects of this joint team project, thereby receiving recognition and credit for participation and contributions, as well as the opportunity to complete a meaningful thesis.

By participating jointly, Montgomery and Jones invite the sharing of data and samples, helping solve the problems that Jones's postdoc has in determining the right conditions for administering the drug while ensuring that the correct credits occur in regard to the publication of findings.

Initially, then, Jones and Montgomery must meet and have a face-to-face open discussion. Jones should propose that Montgomery publish his information as soon as possible and that her recognition of his findings in relation to her concept be a "follow-up" paper in the same journal. As these papers are being prepared, each researcher should review and make suggestions as appropriate with an acknowledgement of the other at the end of each paper. A joint research program to move the findings forward should be initiated, and, at the same time, a research proposal for joint funding should be developed and sent to the appropriate agency.

The story ends with this: They get the grant and establish a joint program in such a way that Montgomery's involvement and growth continue; he receives early tenure because of his important contributions recognized by Jones and others. Jones is jointly credited with a key finding that leads to a new cancer treatment. Smith receives his Ph.D. and is looking for a teaching position or a research position in industry. And Jones's postdoc is now an assistant professor at another university and is interested in teaming up with others based on this successful venture.

Team research is the way to go in the 21st century!

Eli Pearce is currently the president of the American Chemical Society and university research professor at Polytechnic University. For further information, send him e-mail at

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