Marine Biologist: 6th-Grader Stole My Idea

Her science fair project had originally astounded scientists
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 23, 2014 8:21 AM CDT
Marine Biologist: 6th-Grader Stole My Idea
In this July 2006 file image released by NOAA Undersea Research Center, a lionfish swims at a depth of about 130 feet, roughly 55 miles off the coast of North Carolina.   (AP Photo/Doug Kesling/NOAA Undersea Research Center, file)

Using only six fish and six tanks, a 6th-grade science fair entrant was able to demonstrate last year what is being hailed as a remarkable discovery: Lionfish, an invasive species found up and down the Florida coast, can also survive in nearly fresh water. There's just one catch: That student may have stolen her idea from a former graduate student her scientist father may have once worked with, reports UPI. Zack Jud, a marine biologist who published very similar results in 2011, says the recent news surprised him because his years of work leading to similar findings are being ignored. He calls now-13-year-old Lauren Arrington the daughter of his "former supervisor's best friend." Arrington's dad, Albrey Arrington, has a PhD in fish ecology and is reportedly listed on Jud's 2011 research paper as a contributing author.

"At this stage in my career, this type of national exposure would be invaluable," Jud writes on Facebook. "I feel like my hands are tied. Anything I say will come off as an attempt to steal a little girl's thunder, but it's unethical for her and her father to continue to claim the discovery of lionfish in estuaries as her own." Whatever the elder Arrington's involvement on that paper, the Central Florida Aquarium Society notes that his author listing on Jud's paper shows that "he was clearly aware that lionfish were found in low salinity parts of the estuary years before the science fair project was carried out," though he reportedly didn't have anything to do with Jud's actual research. In a later comment on Facebook, Jud says, "Now there's a petition on the web demanding that the young lady be added as an author on my most recent scientific publication," where, he says, he did name her in the acknowledgements section, "because apparently I stole her idea." (Before this revelation, Lauren's work had blown away other scientists.)

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