# Publishing

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How easy are the ideas to be stolen after publishing papers?

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48 minutes ago, Lizwi said:

How easy are the ideas to be stolen after publishing papers?

Hi Lizwi,

This is an interesting question and I have some views about this! Unfortunately in academia there is a battle with this question. The research groups I have worked in have all been open minded about publishing and sharing their work for furthering the knowledge in that area. In many ways you want people to use your work as a basis because then you have instigated that line of research which might lead to a whole bunch of other people's work you are interested in and hopefully they all look to you and appreciate your initial work. The larger science community has to get on board for initial research to become industrially viable and actually useable.

On the other hand, you don't want people to beat you by publishing the exact work you are currently working on or want to publish next. It is sometimes good to reach out and collaborate with 'competitors' for the good of science and scientific politics. If you're not willing to do that then it becomes a race. Many of these races for publication results in papers which are sub standard and needed more time and effort on.

Of course, it is common to never list your own ideas and 'future work' in extensive detail within the paper but make this more general!

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1 hour ago, Lizwi said:

How easy are the ideas to be stolen after publishing papers?

I am not aware that "ideas" are stolen very often. There are occasional examples of plagiarism, where someone will pass off someone else's work as their own. But with so  much research published on the Internet, anti-plagiarism software can detect this (even if people change a few words).

If the research has immediate and valuable commercial possibilities, then the researchers are quite likely to set up a company (with patents, trademarks, etc) to exploit and protect their work.

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To protect against stealing intellectual property there have been introduced patents. U.S. patent cost between $10k-$30k. So better if your idea is worth something otherwise you will end up with a lost of huge amount of money. And you need to be prepared to license and/or start production right away after acquiring patent. You will need to earn money to sustain patent (maintenance fee)

You might find interesting to read this article "The Top 5 Mistakes Inventors make with their Invention":

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But it is important to not that a patent cannot protect an idea. It can only protect a "device" that does something using that idea. And the patent has to be published, and provide enough detail that someone else can implement the same thing.

And copyright cannot protect an idea; it can only protect a specific written description (or drawing) of the idea.

The only way to protect an idea is to keep it secret!

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26 minutes ago, Strange said:

The only way to protect an idea is to keep it secret! ﻿

That was the way for thousands of years. People invented something, used by themselves, eventually selling it, then they were dying and with them details of production of the thing (like e.g. procedure of production of some chemical compound). New people after centuries and millenniums had to reinvent it once again.

Edited by Sensei

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The question confuses me - once you've published your idea, you've shared it with the broader scientific community. How would someone "steal" it once you've already announced it in a publication?

Did you mean before publication?

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4 hours ago, Strange said:

But it is important to not that a patent cannot protect an idea. It can only protect a "device" that does something using that idea. And the patent has to be published, and provide enough detail that someone else can implement the same thing.

And copyright cannot protect an idea; it can only protect a specific written description (or drawing) of the idea.

The only way to protect an idea is to keep it secret!

Keep it secret until when?

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As Arete said, publishing results is sharing it with the broader community. If you want something patented, is generally recommended to obtain a patent before or closely to when you publish. Once you publish, everything in it is free for others to use and expand upon.

5 hours ago, Dr_ir0nside said:

Of course, it is common to never list your own ideas and 'future work' in extensive detail within the paper but make this more general!

Future work tend to be found either in theses or in certain types of reviews (e.g. "Perspectives"). There is little value (typically) to have something like that in an original paper except in the very broadest sense (e.g. the connection between X and Y remains to be solved). As such there is no stealing involved, as you offer it up.

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12 minutes ago, Lizwi said:

Keep it secret until when?

For as long as you need to protect it!

Many companies rely on "trade secrets" to protect their technology. This might be because they don't think it is worth the cost of patenting, or is not actually patentable.

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2 minutes ago, Strange said:

For as long as you need to protect it!

For as long as you can resist your own vanity.

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In order to publish, is it necessary to have a PhD or any formal qualification?

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Just now, Lizwi said:

In order to publish, is it necessary to have a PhD or any formal qualification?

If you are talking about publishing a scientific paper then it isn't necessary. But you may lack the knowledge and experience to write a paper that would be accepted.

There are occasional papers published by non-specialists working with experts in the field. For example, I think there was a paper published on the migratory habits of snails based on some work done by an amateur scientist for a TV program in the UK. I am not aware of anything like that in physics, though.

There seems to be more opportunity for amateurs to make breakthroughs in mathematics.

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32 minutes ago, Strange said:

If you are talking about publishing a scientific paper then it isn't necessary. But you may lack the knowledge and experience to write a paper that would be accepted.

There are occasional papers published by non-specialists working with experts in the field. For example, I think there was a paper published on the migratory habits of snails based on some work done by an amateur scientist for a TV program in the UK. I am not aware of anything like that in physics, though.

There seems to be more opportunity for amateurs to make breakthroughs in mathematics.

And astronomy.

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3 minutes ago, StringJunky said:

And astronomy.

Good example. That may be the field where amateurs make the most contributions.

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This is a very interesting topic, not to mention very useful

Just like Arete, I was also a bit confused by the question since I couldn't tell if the member was asking about papers before or after being published in scientific journals.

Because once you publish a paper in a scientific journal, that means it is officially your idea and other interested people can only cite your work or base their own paper on it.

But when it comes to someone stealing your idea before you officially publish it as your own, I would say that the most likely possibility of that happening is if you share your idea with other people, among who someone might want to steal it and write a paper about that same topic.

52 minutes ago, Lizwi said:

In order to publish, is it necessary to have a PhD or any formal qualification?﻿

I agree with Strange that, when it comes to publishing a scientific paper, that is not really necessary.

So far, I have managed to publish a couple of scientific papers, even though I haven't even graduated from college.

However, according to my personal experience, you will need a mentor who can also be your professor or someone who has a Master's degree or a PhD in order to publish your paper.

Of course, you and your mentor can be both considered as coauthors, even if you are the one that wrote the paper. But in most cases, the mentor usually wants to contribute as well.

And even if this is the case, you must be careful and make sure that you can trust your mentor, because I have heard about some situations where the professor or mentor steals the student's idea and publishes it as his/her own.

This has not happened to me, fortunately, but still you need to be cautious whom you present your idea to.

Edited by Space Babe

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16 minutes ago, Space Babe said:

And even if this is the case, you must be careful and make sure that you can trust your mentor, because I have heard about some situations where the professor or mentor steals the student's idea and publishes it as his/her own.

Not quite the same, but Ralph Alpher (who was a PhD student at the time) wrote a paper with his supervisor George Gamow. Gamow thought it would be funny to add his friend Hans Bethe as second author (because it sounds like  α, β, and γ). Alpher resented this at the time and for decades after.

And, of course, there is a bit of a history of senior researchers getting Nobel Prizes for work that their (often female) students or colleagues did (structure of DNA, discovery of pulsars).

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5 minutes ago, Strange said:

Not quite the same, but Ralph Alpher (who was a PhD student at the time) wrote a paper with his supervisor George Gamow. Gamow thought it would be funny to add his friend Hans Bethe as second author (because it sounds like  α, β, and γ). Alpher resented this at the time and for decades after.

I have never heard of this case, thank you for telling me about it.

But are you trying to say that all three of them together were considered as coauthors?

Did Bethe even contribute to the paper?

Edited by Space Babe

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24 minutes ago, Space Babe said:

Of course, you and your mentor can be both considered as coauthors, even if you are the one that wrote the paper. But in most cases, the mentor usually wants to contribute as well.

In most disciplines only two position count: first author (usually student), last author (PI/mentor). In natural sciences at least It is exceedingly rare that a student gets a paper submitted to a mainstream journal without going over the desk of a PI. Contributions on a paper are iffy, and groups often have different policies which can differ quite a bit from generally accepted standards.

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14 minutes ago, Strange said:

And, of course, there is a bit of a history of senior researchers getting Nobel Prizes for work that their (often female) students or colleagues did (structure of DNA, discovery of pulsars).

I have also heard about this. I think that Rosalind Franklin was not awarded the Nobel Prize for her contribution to the discovery of the structure of DNA. In other words, she was snubbed due to sexism.

Edited by Space Babe

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1 minute ago, Space Babe said:

I have also heard about this. I think that Rosalind Franklin was not awarded the Nobel Prize for her contribution to the discovery of the structure of DNA.

I understood it was because she wasn't alive when it was awarded. They aren't given posthumously.

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3 minutes ago, Space Babe said:

I have also heard about this. I think that Rosalind Franklin was not awarded the Nobel Prize for her contribution to the discovery of the structure of DNA.

The award itself is less of an issue, she died before it was given out (though it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if she had been alive). Rather problematic is that she was not on the paper and that subsequently the work was almost exclusively with Watson and Crick. That in itself is problematic on several levels.

Crossposted with SJ

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Just now, CharonY said:

The award itself is less of an issue, she died before it was given out (though it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if she had been alive). Rather problematic is that she was not on the paper and that subsequently the work was almost exclusively with Watson and Crick. That in itself is problematic on several levels.

Crossposted with SJ

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6 minutes ago, CharonY said:

In most disciplines only two position count: first author (usually student), last author (PI/mentor). In natural sciences at least It is exceedingly rare that a student gets a paper submitted to a mainstream journal without going over the desk of a PI. Contributions on a paper are iffy, and groups often have different policies which can differ quite a bit from generally accepted standards.

I completely agree with your opinion, as I have also experienced that.

Usually I have always published scientific papers with only one mentor, who would often like to contribute.

But I never had any experience with group publishing. I am a bit nervous about this because I started working with three researchers (even though all the research ideas are mine) and I don't really know how things will turn out when we will have to publish our results.

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21 minutes ago, Space Babe said:

But are you trying to say that all three of them together were considered as coauthors?

Did Bethe even contribute to the paper?

Bethe did not contribute, but was listed as an author. That annoyed Alpher because having two prominent scientists listed diminished his role (and it was nearly all his work).

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