Poll time! Share your thoughts on sharing

May 04 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I was chatting with some department peeps a few weeks back, and a post-doc from one of the big labs here remarked that a nice perk of being in Famous Dude's lab was that it was much easier to get people at other institutions to send him their reagents. In grad school, he said, he often got the runaround because (he thought) his PI was not as well known, despite being at a very well known Classy Institution.

In contrast, yesterday my not-so-famous PI wrote to a PI at a different institution requesting a virus. Less than half an hour went by before we got a friendly, positive response--no-strings-attached save for confirmation of IACUC and EHS approval. I was floored at how easy that was. It was the kind of experience that makes you believe in people again, you know?

Now, I'm pretty sure that if your research is funded by NIH, it is a generally accepted (if generally unenforced) rule that you're supposed to share your published antibodies, constructs, transgenic mice, etc with anyone who asks. But are there things about the person who asks that would keep you from sharing? Has anyone ever denied your request, and if so, did they have a good reason?

Please take my super fun poll (more than one answer is allowed!), and elaborate on your sharing experiences in the comments here.


15 responses so far

  • k says:

    I answered "been denied", but I wasn't actually told that I couldn't have the reagent. We went through the MTA process and got everything approved, and then they stopped answering our emails. Needless to say the reagent never arrived, so after months of paperwork and waiting I'm back to square one. Would much rather have been denied up front.

  • HennaHonu says:

    I was denied a request indirectly (i.e. completely ignored, even after cc'ing the PI). I am in a NSF field though (not NIH).

  • I find that it has a lot to do with who actually does the asking. My boss makes us ask for everything ourselves; getting an email from a silly little graduate student never results in anything for me, even when I clearly state the name of my PI and that I am writing on his behalf. Three times now someone has said that no, they will not send me reagents... and then my boss writes and voila, reagents on their way.

    (Unfortunately, my boss still has not grasped from this that perhaps it would make sense for him to ask for these things the first time around...)

  • Dr. O says:

    Since I work with pathogens, it sometimes gets a little difficult to share strains. But we always get it done...it just might take a little while. And I don't usually jump at the chance to deal with piles of biosafety paperwork for someone I don't know in another country (HUGE mess in some cases). Instead, I try to find ways to send constructs or other materials to help them meet their goals.

  • becca says:

    I've nearly always gotten what I've asked for, just sometimes it takes forever. And sometimes with transgenic mice they ask for a fee that seems prohibitively high.
    It largely correlates with how transferable the item actually is, I think. I've gotten great results with plasmids, mixed results with antibodies, and with mice it's been functionally hopeless. That said, my advisor has a lot of what appear to me to be funny quirks about how and what I may ask for (there are probably quasi-political concerns he has that he just doesn't fill me in on).

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    Borrowing museum specimens for study should always be done by a professor, an established researcher, and never by a graduate student. Most museums will not loan specimens to a graduate student.

    Friend of mine, a well published graduate student, requested a loan of specimens. He got back a form letter stating the museum did not make loans to unqualified people. Later the same museum wrote him requesting he deposit some specimens he had collected and was working on. He modified a copy of their form letter and sent it back to them.

  • Dr. Cynicism says:

    I don't work with reagents in my research, but I'd like to think that most PIs would be very quick to deny me access to theirs.

  • I find that most people are nice, and the ones that are asshats are not nice to anyone. Even as a brand new TT prof (with no other introductions from more established people), everyone I asked sent research materials with no real issues. One professor was even nice enough to allow my brand new student to pick their postdoc's brains about getting things set up so we could the materials their lab sent.

  • Dr 27 says:

    At my PD institution there's a rivalry between my PI and a guy in Germany or something. So guy in Germany refused to share construct, thus we had to design our own and order the stuff. It might be because of competing interests or whatever, which sucks because I waited like 2 months for some of the stuff. At PhD lab I once ran out of a buffer and ran to another lab and they let me use their reagents to make a simple Tris-HCL solution and pH it there and all. Same when I needed some MgCl. We didn't have our own MilliQ purifier and the lab next door had one. We only needed MilliQ H2O a few times a year and one time, when the manager was gone and somebody else was in charge I was called into that PIs office who was less than nice and talked enough bull to grant a call to my PI who made other arrangements. Both our labs were NIH funded, and you'd think that for 1-3 gallons of H2O 2x a year they'd be friendlier ... but whatevs, I avoided them like the plague.

  • Dr 27 says:

    @Jim Thomerson .... well played by the grad student .... what a bunch of asshats

  • Bothropoides says:

    @Jim Thomerson...agreed on nice work by the student.

    I'm doing my Ph.D. and haven't ever had a problem borrowing museum specimens on my own behalf. I've borrowed from most of the major reptile collections. Denied once, then learned their rule on a visit (no skeletons loaned) and didn't have a problem after that. Maybe non-herp departments are more tight-assed?

    Had more trouble getting published data/alignments. No reagents borrowed, though.

  • We've denied someone an antibody that I created before, because I wanted to give myself a temporary head start on some stuff before I start handing the shit out. Fuck em, we did the work and I'm not letting a competitor scoop us. However, I sent it out a month or two later once I had some preliminary results in hand.

  • NatC says:

    Always played nicely with my toys and had that reciprocated
    But...we are pretty specific about who we ask: a transgenic/virus/drug from people working in a closely related field/competitor? We don't often ask.
    But a transgenic from people working in a different system entirely? Absolutely!
    We send a brief description of what we study and what we're interested in studying.
    Has never been an issue for us, people have been extremely kind, (and I've never been in a big-name lab).

  • Ali says:

    I voted "always been shared with". But just this week my close collaborator/lab neighbor told me he had requested a reagent (published in a Glamor mag) and been told that he could have it if he included the creators as co-authors on any resulting publications. He called b.s and it re-producing the reagent on his own.

  • [...] May: I was chatting with some department peeps a few weeks back, and a post-doc from one of the big labs here remarked that a nice perk of being in Famous Dude's lab was that it was much easier to get people at other institutions to send him their reagents. [...]

Leave a Reply