There are no strings on me
With the recent publication of OncoLnc I thought it would be interesting to look at what would have happened if I tried to perform this project while in my PhD program. First of all, I never would have been able to work on a useful project like this, but for the sake of argument let’s say I developed the superpower of not needing to sleep and during the day while the PI watched over my shoulder I worked on his useless projects and worked on OncoLnc at night once the PI had gone home. Then let’s say I surprised the lab with the tool and an already written paper during a lab meeting. Well, PIs never turn down the chance at getting their name on a publication so the PI would probably be pleasantly surprised by the work. In fact, he would likely start claiming the project was his idea even though he had no knowledge of the project. Scratch that, not only was it his idea but he had to convince me to work on it, heck, he had to force me to do it. Actually, you know what, maybe I didn’t even make OncoLnc and wrote the paper, it was a joint effort amongst several labs.
The PI would likely be convinced OncoLnc is much more useful than cBioPortal (I actually would have to agree with him here) and destined for publication in a prestigious journal. He would probably start contacting the editors at Cancer Discovery or even Nature Genetics to see what their interest in the paper was and if anything needed to be added to the paper to be suitable for those journals. And if more work needed to be done I would have to do it. Despite being the only contributor to the project a bunch of people who needed their names on a paper would be listed as coauthors. Although it cost basically no money to develop OncoLnc, several grants would be listed as funding sources to show the NIH that those grants have been productive.
The PI would then happily present the work any chance he got at departmental seminars and conferences, with my name maybe briefly getting mentioned. Any time someone asked for a new feature to be added into OncoLnc I would be forced to add it regardless if it was practical or had any scientific merits. And of course none of this work was an excuse for not completing the pointless projects in the lab on time, but it’s a good thing I no longer need to sleep. Such is the life of a graduate student.
The funny thing is if UVA just gave me an office to work in and didn’t bother me I could have easily pumped out a paper for them every couple months. And you might wonder why they don’t do this for talented students since isn’t the goal of universities to perform research? Well, actually no. Universities are just Ponzi schemes that exist to serve the egos of a few at the expense of the many.