|Poetry of reality|
|We must know. |
We will know.
|A view from the|
shoulders of giants.
In science, scooping is when one person publishes the scientific results that someone else had been working towards. Once the relevant discovery has already been claimed, the person who was originally (or concurrently) investing work or funds into a project will be unable to publish their own work and add to their curriculum vitae.
In most cases, scientists are presumably scooped because several groups have been working unknowingly or in open rivalry on the same problem. In extreme cases, it is the result of data theft. Scooping can become an issue in the peer review process. Strategies to avoid scooping are either a partitioning of a scientific field, where colleagues consciously do not stray into "territory" occupied by others, or a direct cooperation between colleagues interested in the same topic.
In the end, if the results are valid, the main problem with scooping is that some other person's name gets attached to the work instead of your own. In addition, large scale scooping (of the non-plagiarist variety) results in multiple teams of scientists spending resources which are ultimately wasted when one of them comes to a conclusion, decreasing the net productivity of science as a whole.
An advantage though is that when two research teams independently come to the same conclusion, possibly with different methodology, it increases the confidence in the conclusion. An example is Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. Wallace came up with the idea of natural selection first, though Darwin had been working toward the idea for 20 years. Darwin had his and Wallace's papers published simultaneously. Darwin published much more extensively than Wallace however, and it is he rather than Wallace who is almost synonymous with evolution.