Dr Becca can now be found at http://scientopia.org/blogs/drbecca .
My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.
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It should go without saying that one of the primary purposes of meeting-going is to promote yourself and your work. You won't advance if you don't impress people, and how will you impress people without showing them how clever and important your science is? If you're at any stage of your career other than Professor Graybeard, most of this self-promotion will probably happen at your poster, where you get to tell people one-on-one about your latest exciting findings. But what if people are so impressed they want to take some of your findings home with them?
It's not uncommon for poster presenters to have handouts with a mini version of their poster on it, and poster visitors are usually more than happy to snatch those up. Others, however, are more protective of their unpublished data. I've mostly been on the "sharing is caring" side of the fence, but sometimes second-guess myself and wonder if that's a naive position.
Yesterday, one of the four people who came to my poster in the malodorous far reaches of the San Diego Conference Center asked if he could have a pdf of the poster. Ever one to put the ball in the other person's court, I gave him my card and told him to email me, which he did later yesterday evening. After polling the twitterverse and considering the circumstances of this person's interest, I decided that this was a very low-risk (and potentially high reward) situation, and sent the file off once I got to New York.
But still, my twitter poll elicited a range of responses, so I thought I'd put it out to my readers. What's your policy on sharing concrete unpublished data with strangers? Sure, people will always take notes. But how do you feel about handouts? Emailing pdfs? Photo-takers?
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I usually will send folks a pdf copy of my poster and usually I bring small print outs of the posters to hand out sometimes. However picture takers generally suffer my scorn and get shitty pics because I will stand in front of data and block the view. I like the email requests for poster pdfs because I know who is asking for them and can choose whether or not to give it to them. I'm not going to hand over a pdf of hot new data to a competitor right away. Maybe I'll get to it in a month or so after I've given myself a headstart.
I'd say if you already put the data on your poster then there's really no further harm in giving them a copy or a PDF. You already played your hand.
Well since I'm a lowly grad student who's only been to one conference (last week, in San Diego, and no it wasn't SfN), I've never been asked for a pdf of my poster. However, at the conference I attended, it was a pretty common practice to have a piece of paper by your poster for people to write their email on if they wanted you to send them a pdf copy of the poster. So I'm guessing that in my field (Cognitive Neuroscience), it's no big issue to send unpublished poster pdfs. On the other hand, there's only so much you can tell from an fMRI poster anyway....
I never send PDFs of the poster, unless it's already published. I've never had anyone snap a picture. If it's a potential collaborator then I just send them some figures later over email.
I agree that I HATE when people take photos, esp because uniformly, they never ask, and also because it's against SfN policy.
Email is better, you know who is asking and who you're sending it to. But I understand protectiveness, I know people who've sent pdf's all nicely, and then gotten scooped because they hadn't gotten everything through to publication.
The idea of disseminating via PDF, especially based on a solication from someone who has seen the same data during a poster presentation or talk, never struck me as problematic. I guess I lean towards Dr. Krueger's (above) camp, that you've already put the material out their for public consumption.
To wit, do the same commenters who are so opposed to distrubuting PDFs also act fiercely protective of poster visitors (or talk attendees) who might take copious notes via pen/paper or laptop? I've been at national and international meetings where attendees in the audiences might as well have been auditioning as court stenographers, given the thoroughness of their notetaking. It's hard for me to even understand the "no-photos" ban, as if a picture is, or has ever been, the only way to capture salient information.
I've sent pdfs to ppl who asked me for my poster via email. That way, they can copy the figures but not do too much (i.e. take the powerpoint and present it as theirs - yes, seen that happen too. No, not with my stuff). I think it is far to hand out your email, and leave it to them to ask in an email for the poster.
I do think that if you make a poster out of it, you should be confident enough that either you have enough to send for publiscation very soon, or it's too complicated for someone to catch up. THat said, I was a bit scared a few years back when I put my stuff up on the poster and our biggest competition came up with camera and all... and then shooed me away from their poster (ended up with taking part of it down so I couldn't see the result section. very odd imho). We both ended up publishing, and it wasn' completely the same... ;)
I have a list where people can leave their name and email so I can later send them a PDF of my poster. This way I can control WHEN it goes out, and I can decide to whom to send it on a case by case basis.
Well my problem is that once you email something to someone, there's no way of stopping them from passing it along to other people, including one of your competitors that that person did not know was a competitor. Which is harder to do with notes.
The difference is in how it's handled. If you're genuinely interested in the person's work--and possibly in collaborating with that lab--then you should be open about your interest. Surreptitiously snapping pics makes it seem like you're trying to snag results for more nefarious purposes. The idea of sending a pdf is particularly appealing because you know who it's going to, you have a point of contact for building a network, and you have an electronic trail if anything does go off.
I post my stuff on my profile so if anyone wants it, they can just go download it themselves. I think the upsides far outweight the downsides in almost every case, and particularly for younger researchers whose main problem is getting exposure for their results. (once they have results, that is!)
I'm not sure I buy this reasoning. "Hey, did you see that Becca has some awesome data showing that pigs can fly if you tweak their hippocampus using direct caffeine injection with a 20g needle??" Done. Your competitor doesn't need to see your data to know your direction or be given a new idea they hadn't thought about. They also don't need a visual copy if they've taken good notes.
Competitors? Unknown competitors? I don't think this really matters at all. If you don't want people to know about your data or you're not confident on your progress and publication potential, don't present the data.
I have sent many a pdf of conference posters.
A) My posters tend to be of projects relativley near submission.
B) Askers are frequently people I think very unlikley to even try to scoop me. Some of the benefits of being in a relativley sparse research area.
At this point the attention gained far outweights the vague possibiligy of a scooping. My tune on this may change as some of my research meanders towards an area that is dominated by a sort of cabal of researchers. Though if I had something that would get their attention I wouldn't put it in a poster.
I don't like sending pdfs of the poster - and our laboratory policy is not to, unless it is a collaborator, in which case there are more elegant ways of exchanging information.
Really, there are two reasons. The first is that I rarely present data that is actually published, and if it's close to publication, I offer to send them the paper once it's accepted. The second is that the poster is never a stand-alone thing. It's really about the presentatation and the discussion about the science.
As for photos, I'm with Sci. I think it's rude. I will move to stand in front of parts of the poster - or just start gesticulating madly to get in the way.
My question is this: how useful do you find the pdfs of posters?
I tend not to mind if someone asks for a pdf, but I usually ask for a copy of some of their work in return (It never hurts to ask).
But I tend not to tell the whole story with my posters anyway. If I did that, then what would be the point of me standing next to the damned thing all day. Sure they can see the results, but they actually have to talk to me in order to understand the methods. So the Pdf and the pictures shouldn't give much away anyway, other than i've done something awesome.
What Namnezia said. If the data aren't published, I don't send pdfs to anyone. I'm happy for people to email me after the meeting to ask questions about some of the methodology or whatever, but I am not giving anyone a hard or electronic copy of the data. Nobody has ever been pissed off about this - quite the opposite actually as I've had several people come by my poster(s) at subsequent meetings to chat about the progress of our respective studies and about how my work influenced theirs, etc.
I think the decision really depends on your work, field, and lab. I've sent posters out to only a couple of people in the 11 years I've been going to meetings, and I use the tactic you used. Before agreeing to send something, I find out what work they are doing and get them to show me their poster in my abstract book so that we can chat some more. I then make the decision of whether or not they're likely to scoop me, or if they're just working in a related field and might make a good collaborator.