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Would you do research with another medical student when you are both applying to the same small competitive specialty?

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I was talking with my friend about starting a project with a preceptor in the speciality that I am interested in and a colleague overheard the conversation and asked me if he can join the same project / introduce me to the preceptor I am doing research with because he is also interested in the same specialty.. How should i respond? We are not close friends at all and I was surprised by his request and I am not sure what to say/handle situation? 

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I did a literature review with a colleague who was a year ahead of me, it took all of 3 weeks, we were published, I made a presentation at the annual meeting of the specialists, it was all good for us both - but we were not in direct competition. Would there be a benefit to you for him to join with you? If not, don’t accept him. But is he able to take your idea and run with it - without you? If so, the quality of your respective research would be telling.

In my case, I ended up in an entirely different specialty, a small competitive surgical specialty.

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For the same project? No unless things are already very well laid out (i.e. your preceptor has a good idea of how it should exactly proceed, and you know what authorship position you'll be in). While some projects are quick and easy, others can run into messy roadblock. In the latter situation if you have someone that is overly competitive or snake, then it'll cause big headaches for you down the road.

I would otherwise try and help out and ask my preceptor if there is another project available or check my emails and see if there was something for him. Introducing him to the preceptor is reasonable, given that if you don't he will probably eventually introduce himself to look for a project.

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I'd say that if you delineate very clear expectations from the beginning it should be ok.

Establish authorship before starting anything

"I want to take the lead, are you ok with being second author?"

Establish how much work for each author 

Establish a clear timeline 

Document EVERYTHING 

good luck!

Edit: doing collaborative work can be fun :-) sometimes it sucks but i can be a good story for carms? 

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I'd try to be polite, and appreciative to some extent, but non-committal.  At this point he  knows about the project and if he really does know the preceptor, this person could go behind your back and maybe make things difficult if you just simply refused them.  You could outline a limited one-person project when the time comes to avoid the potential awkwardness of collaborating with someone who is your direct competition.  Hopefully, this person will get the hint and understand that politeness only goes so far.  You have to strike a balance between being collaborative and looking out for yourself.    

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It puts you in a tough spot, but it really depends on how you feel about it. The only thing I wouldn't recommend doing is outright refusing to work with them. You can find an excuse not to work with them, you can just say that you're actually starting the project and you don't need any help right now for example. If you do think they could actually be of help and make it so that you can have time to work on another project lets say, then it may be worth collaborating. Depending on how small this specialty is, it could still be a win win situation, but if we are talking about a specialty with less than 20 spots across the country, then you may truly be in direct competition. 

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Rule of thumb would be don't do a project with someone you don't get along with, don't need on the project or who doesn't want to establish roles and authorship beforehand. Beyond competition, those are the things that will create problems in methodology, can affect the quality of your output and ruin your experience. 

As for the competition, it's really sad that we have to ask these questions, watch out for 'snakes' or that people are motivated to do research just to put it on their cv. I'd think if your project will be better by adding him do it if not don't bother for the above points. Also if you are worried that this person could steal your idea go to your PI now and tell them about your idea.

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