Forum: What to do with collaborations when moving positions?
gravatar for A. Domingues
5.4 years ago by
A. Domingues2.2k
Dresden, Germany
A. Domingues2.2k wrote:

[I am not sure this is the right place for this, but here it goes.]

Q: what to do with collaborations agreed upon during teh course of position when moving to a new unrelated positions?


After a postdoc where I shifted from bench to in-silico work, I have been working in a sequencing facility for about 1.5 years where we do sequencing as a service, and analyse data on a collaborative basis (mostly). For some projects I had the discretion to choose whether to collaborate in a project or not. Well, early this year I took on a project with an out of town partner, where they would send us the samples for sequencing, and then I would work with them in the analysis.

So far so good. The problem was that unexpectedly I accepted a posdoc offer in another city, and as soon as it was official contacted my collaborators to tell them they needed to speed-up and send the samples if I was to do the analysis. For one reason or another, the data arrived at my desk late (and not great data tbh) and now I am have a limited amount of time to work on it before moving on.


The trouble is that they assume that I will carry on collaborating with them after the move. Well, since is a new unrelated job it might be difficult. For one, I don't know in advance the workload of the project, or of my new position. So I can see a few options:

1. Terminate the collaboration, delivering as many results as possible before the move;

2. Carry on collaborating on my spare time (personal), letting the collaborators know that results might be delayed;

3. Let my new boss know of this, asking him to work on the collaboration during working hours for a limited period of time. 

Number 3 is my least preferred option, specially because I would like to dedicate myself as much as possible to the research projects I will be having. But leaving someone with whom I agreed a collaboration feels like breaking professional code.

So what did others, more experienced bioinformaticians have done? is this a common occurrence? I am obsessing about noting?

job forum collaboration • 1.3k views
ADD COMMENTlink modified 5.4 years ago by Obi Griffith18k • written 5.4 years ago by A. Domingues2.2k

Are you not being replaced in the facility? If you are then your replacement would just take over any remaining analyses. Afterall, any actual contractual agreement would be with the facility rather than you personally.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.4 years ago • written 5.4 years ago by Devon Ryan94k

There might be replacement coming at some point but it might choose not work on this - or know how to handle it. There is a weird model in place where some projects have to be taken by a bioinformatitian, due to the funding source, whereas others we are free to pick and choose. I could have passed this one.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.4 years ago by A. Domingues2.2k

Ah, that makes sense. I suspect that's not the most unusual sort of arrangement. Istvan's answer is definitely spot-on then.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.4 years ago by Devon Ryan94k
gravatar for Obi Griffith
5.4 years ago by
Obi Griffith18k
Washington University, St Louis, USA
Obi Griffith18k wrote:

First thing I will say is that, in my experience, this is very common. There continues to be a supply and demand imbalance between the amount of sequence data needing analysis and the number of people qualified to do that analysis. I personally see it all the time. Most likely your collaborators are a little bit desperate, like everyone else who is producing sequence data, but don't really understand what to do with it. This might cause them to push for a continued relationship that might not otherwise make sense for you given your changing circumstances. 

The critical point in your post however is that you are starting a postdoc position. Its not clear if your current position was academic-track but I'm assuming your new one is (otherwise why accept a postdoc title?). Informatics postdocs are well-positioned (relatively speaking) right now for transition to academia or industry. But, that doesn't mean you can fly on auto-pilot. You need to be very strategic and avoid becoming over-subscribed, helping too many others get their data analyzed at the detriment of your own interests. You should think about this collaboration purely in terms of the cost/benefit for your career goals. If it is a manageable amount of work with good publication potential or maintains a connection with a valuable collaborator in your field then you should discuss with your new boss. Make it a formal collaboration with clear expectations on both sides. If not, give your regrets and focus on your new job. As a bioinformatics postdoc you should be trying to identify a couple/few projects that you can take ownership of and really focus most (80%) of your effort on for your first-author publications and grant applications. This is essentially all that will matter when it comes time for promotion in academia and will only help you for industry applications as well. Inevitably you will also have a number of other smaller side projects where you help others out with analysis for their papers. Again, you need to be strategic about choosing those and try to keep them to a manageable 20% or less of your time.

Nobody would/should hire a wet-lab postdoc and expect them to spend all their time doing tissue culture, etc for every other lab/person in the building. That is what a technician is for or the informatics equivalent (staff analyst, etc). But, this happens sometimes to informatics postdocs because of the supply/demand problem mentioned above. You need to stick up for your interests and the appropriate roles for a postdoc. Your new boss should support you in this. Good luck with your new position! 

ADD COMMENTlink written 5.4 years ago by Obi Griffith18k

The strategic-positioning is one of the reasons why I am moving. Without getting into too much detail, the current position was a stop-gap (but very insightful experience) until a position that fitted my research interests came along (and it did out of the blue). The collaboration does not fit the research that I will be doing (and would like to do long-term). Very good insight, cheers.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.4 years ago by A. Domingues2.2k
gravatar for Istvan Albert
5.4 years ago by
Istvan Albert ♦♦ 83k
University Park, USA
Istvan Albert ♦♦ 83k wrote:

Every agreement has written and unwritten terms - some of them obvious (if a bus runs me over I won't complete the work) others are tacitly implied. I would consider a career change with different obligations to be a major change that no reasonable collaborator would ignore. 

The best is to talk and discuss the details with your collaborators - most scientists will understand the issues at hand and you can most likely come to mutually agreeable terms.

ADD COMMENTlink written 5.4 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 83k

That was also I thought - just talk to them and see if we can come to some understanding. I did try to drop the hint that the move will hinder the collaboration, but they either missed or seem to be keen on continuing regardless. They are however suggesting meetings after I move, which can be awkward without notifying my new boss. Thanks for the advice.

ADD REPLYlink written 5.4 years ago by A. Domingues2.2k

You should also talk to your new boss and they may be interested in collaborating as well.

In all you have to make it clear and explicit to you collaborators what you can and cannot do based on the position and the new obligations that you take on. Some of the constraints will be beyond just a choice.

ADD REPLYlink modified 5.4 years ago • written 5.4 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 83k
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