I currently have two postdocs. One of them has been with me for 2+ years and has applied to tenure track positions this past fall. His record looks very good, he has published quite a bit and I sent him to give invited talks instead of me as much as I could, so he's had a lot of exposure. He had his first phone interview and is having an on-site interview in a few weeks. I am very proud of him and very excited for him!
I looked closely at his application materials when he assembled them (the CV, research and teaching statements). His research statement was solid, he proposed several interesting and relevant directions of research that leverage his expertise and are direct outcomes of the work he did in my group. I think it's perfectly fine that he will take the projects he's been working on and start his own program.
A few weeks ago, he finally got around to creating his own webpage and sent me the link. The page is simple but looks nice and has all that it needs to describe a young aspiring faculty -- contact info, CV, papers, description of research. Actually, I found his research section to be quite extensive and carry quite a few surprises: in addition to description of the work that he has been doing and the work that he listed in his research statement, there are several research items that are directly taken from my other ongoing projects in which he was never involved, but of which he heard in group meetings. He also wrote about some project ideas on which I have either recently submitted proposals or I am planning to do so shortly (as in, I am currently writing and will submit in the next few weeks); these ideas were tossed around in the group meeting or in the meetings with other collaborators.
I was unpleasantly surprised. I think my main feeling was a sort of disappointment.
I don't want to be a petty, selfish project-hog advisor, but it's not free for all; I don't think that all the projects that I currently work on or plan on working on are fair game to claim as your own. Some of my projects are collaborative with other people, and these collaborators don't know this postdoc; just because this work gets discussed in group meetings, that doesn't mean it's up for grabs as is. Especially projects that are currently under development, where I am excited about new ideas and have started writing proposals -- just because you have read your advisor's proposal (which, by the way, does not utilize your immediate expertise) because she asked you for comments as that is part of postdoc training, that does not mean you have the right to appropriate those ideas. Or worse yet, put descriptions of these yet-to-be funded projects on a freely accessible web page for everyone to see.
So, the question of the day is: when a person leaves to start his or her new faculty position, how do you decide what is OK for them to take along?
Do you have a talk about non-competing, where you as senior prof stop working on some of the projects on which the new lab/group is planning to embark?
If you are a professor, have you been on either side of the equation -- that as a new professor you feel you were not allowed to take enough, or, as a more senior prof, that perhaps some ideas were appropriated in a way that wasn't entirely... well, appropriate?
I invite you to share your experiences and philosophy regarding how to best help launch a new tenure track faculty, ensuring the junior prof has a good head start and a large enough pool of ideas to start from, while also ensuring that this departure is fair to everyone involved.