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Competition and co-operation between labs


Principles: not taking credit for contribution to papers
Avrion Mitchison Scientist
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The way you tell the story about you and I did these things, there's no way in history that anyone can connect you and I to any part of that story because you didn't put your name on the papers I published. Even though you'd begun the experiments, all the conceptual framework for it was yours and so on and so forth. How do you think of that now? Well, as I was saying earlier, I think at the time I thought that was the only right and proper way to- to behave. I didn't appreciate the very point that you're making. That it makes it very difficult for people in the future to work out who does what. I would, however, raise the following- make the following point. That what the hell are people at future doing working out who did what? First of all, it should be dead boring for them, secondly it doesn't matter at all. Why worry? Well- So, I would argue that there's right here. There's a principle, and the principle is that people who made important contributions should be recognised in the literature for making those contributions. Here's an example where your contribution is simply not recognised and it's just not right. So- Well it's nice of you to say so, and now it's on record. Yes. On this film. But it's a principle that you, over the years, it would be nice to hear your views looking back now, that you did over and over again, where you wouldn't put your name on the papers of your students and post docs, even when you did make a very large contribution to it. So it was a matter of principle, but is it the right principle? Well, we could debate the principles. We could debate the princ- I mean that's not the only principle involved. Another principle involved is that the junior partner should have his or her career advanced as much as possible, and so on and so forth. But for me the overwhelming principle is whether you should make life- make reading the literature easy for other people. And that's why I think I was wrong.

Avrion Mitchison, the British zoologist, is currently Professor Emeritus at University College London and is best known for his work demonstrating the role of lymphocytes in tumour rejection and for the separate and cooperative roles of T- and B-lymphocytes in this and other processes.

Listeners: Martin Raff

Martin Raff is a Canadian-born neurologist and research biologist who has made important contributions to immunology and cell development. He has a special interest in apoptosis, the phenomenon of cell death.



Listen to Martin Raff at Web of Stories



Duration: 2 minutes, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008