Toby's ten commandments of being scooped

25 July 2018

[To be read in alongside Luc's ten commandments of authorship.]

Rule 1
Never consult a list of rules regarding being scooped.
Rule 2
Be happy: it implies \(\geq 1\) other person is interested in the problem you solved.
Rule 3
You hear about the other author's paper before it's posted on the arXiv, and are on friendly terms with them. Politely ask if they'd be willing to post to the arXiv simultaneously. This is a win-win: both papers will look more important and get more attention. If they don't agree, go to Rule 6. In either case, cite the other paper and be generous in crediting them.
Rule 4
You agree to post simultaneously, but then they ask for more time. Be generous and give them plenty of extra time. You will feel good. When you post yours, cite the other paper and be generous in crediting them.
Rule 5
You agree to post simultaneously, but then you need more time. Go home, have a beer, tell them you're not going to make the agreed date and let them post first. When you post yours, cite the other paper and be generous in crediting them.
Rule 6
The other results appear on the arXiv before yours, but you can post your results soon enough that it's clearly independent work. Go ahead and post them. You'll still get credit for the work. Cite the other paper and be generous in crediting them.
Rule 7
You're not ready to post soon without stressing about it, but the differences in your results are interesting and you're motivated to work on them. Work on those, post your paper when you have interesting new results. Be happy, smile. You've advanced science a few more steps. Cite the other paper and be generous in crediting them.
Rule 8
Your results are very similar, and the differences aren't interesting enough to you. Get your mind off it—crying, sex, indulging, smoking, hallucinating, and swimming in the North Sea may help. After doing \(\geq 1\) of those activities, look at the differences with fresh eyes. If they look interesting now, go back to Rule 7. If not, let this one go. There are infinitely many new and interesting problems to work on: go and work on one of those.
Rule 9
It happens - do not get stressed about it.
Rule 10
It happens more often if you procrastinate about papers, try to polish the results until they're perfect, and sit on them forever before posting to the arXiv.1 1I know \(\geq 1\) person who's failed to ever learn this lesson. But do not get stressed about this either.2 2They do seem to have learned this lesson, though!

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