2006/08/18

[Academic] Piggy-Backing

I learned a new meaning of the expression "Piggy Backing" (maybe someone should add it to wikipedia?). I was familiar with the expression in the wireless world, where it means using someone else's network, with or without the authorisation of the owner. H4ck3rs do it illegally, and researchers study protocols which would allow to do it and benefit all users: you might be willing to let people piggyback on your network if they allow you to piggyback on theirs, so that everybody gets a better coverage. It seems that in the world of academia, this expression refers to the action to put your name on a paper when you did not contribute to it, but merely attended meetings where the results were discussed. Of course it is nasty, but I don't think that it happens to often, nor that it matters too much: someone piggy-backing just won't get invited to the next meeting, and in most cases I have seen, people retract their name from the project if they feel that they did not contribute enough. I would not know how to name the opposite of piggy-backing (backstabbing maybe?), which would be to attend a meeting, participate to the discussion, but leave to publish your own paper without discussing it with the others. Of course depending of the rules of the meeting it could be accepted or not (it is not in the discussion group that I created), and anyway it is arbitrary and difficult to check (you won't read all the publications of all the members just to check how much the discussion group influenced them). But in most cases that I can think of, i.e. in a meeting between people of the same group, the same department, or the same scientific community, I think that the moral assumption is that people share their ideas not for anybody to take home selfishly, but for others to share back their own. It does not necessarily means that all the participants will be authors of the same paper, but that all of them could potentially be authors, if they agree to work more on the writing. I think that this second kind of "exploitation" happens more often, I dislike it a lot, but I am not sure how accepted or disliked it is in TCS. The divergence of opinions about it comes in part from a disagreement over the relative importance of technical results vs new ideas: on one hand there is the view that only the solution of a problem deserves credit and respect, and on the other hand I highly value identifying the problem, coming up with a proper definition for it, along with all the steps of the discussion which leads to the final solution (closing and eliminating dead-ends and clearing the path), including errors. Typically in a discussion group there is more negative results than positive ones, but those are required as well as the positive ones to reach the final result...

2 comments:

'zar' said...

Tiens, le "piggy backing" est à la mode dans certaines parties de ma boite ...

jyby said...

en wireless ou en idees?