I would like to know from an academic standpoint on what steps that an amateur scientist would have to take in order to get his/her scientific breakthrough published in a major academic journal/scientific magazine.

Say that this person is outside of academia, he/she has no college degrees, and he/she has stumbled upon a scientific breakthrough by chance after years of doing self-study, research, and experiments with a particular scientific area of study. Also, say that this person has a job with a modest salary so if they will need to raise a lot of money to get it published, they will have to get it from an angel investor or from crowdfunding.

Although I understand that the odds of such a person coming up with a scientific breakthrough is very slim to none, I still would like to know the process that this person will likely have to follow if he/she wants to get it published.

For example, would the first step be that this person should take be making an appointment with a college professor in order to get a professional opinion on their scientific breakthrough? If so, what guarantee does the amateur scientist have that this college professor will not try to steal this scientific breakthrough? Should the amateur scientist insist that the college professor first sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement?

Would the second step be that the amateur scientist meet with another college professor to in order get a second opinion and again have that professor sign a NDA? What would be the 3rd step, 4th step, etc., etc.

Although there are probably many steps in the process of getting it published, I'm interested in just the major steps that will likely have to be taken.

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    If it truly is a breakthrough then even with almost no advertising it could get noticed and then published. See the anonymous 4chan user that solved a decade math problem – Sam Dean Jul 29 '19 at 12:48
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    If you seek the "professional opinion" of an expert on your work, and especially if you ask them to sign an NDA, be ready for the answer "sure, my consulting rate is $200 / hour". – Federico Poloni Jul 29 '19 at 13:20
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    If you are breaking laws of physics get ready to be laughed at. And more broadly, be prepared to be told you've made a mistake. Not saying you have, and you've acknowledged the unlikelihood, but just be ready for it. Lots of people think they found something new and really didn't. – Bryan Krause Jul 29 '19 at 14:44
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    @user847982 An amateur with no academic connections is not going to be able to post to arXiv without first getting an endorsement. The site has had gatekeeping for a decade now. Largely because of the large number of amateurs who think they've made a breakthrough. HRIATEXP talks about experiments which is promising if the field is physical, but still leaves a lot of room for misunderstanding. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Jul 29 '19 at 15:31
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    If your experiments involve human or animal subjects be ready to redo everything unless you have asked for ethical approval beforehand. – Mark Jul 29 '19 at 18:06

The title question is answered by "write a paper and submit it to a journal". The amateur scientist doesn't need anything special to do that.

The questions in the text deal with a separate question, which is whether or not the breakthrough actually is a breakthrough. In this case getting a professional opinion is certainly going to be helpful (see Kaveh's answer to a related question for the process). It's easy to deal with the "threat" of the professor stealing the idea: just establish precedence by, e.g, attaching the manuscript to an email with a timestamp. If the professor tries to steal the idea anyway, he would be breaking some deep-rooted academic norms. If it's proven that he's plagiarizing, he can get into serious trouble.

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    While this is true in theory, both paragraphs seem a little idealistic to me. Journals are likely to give short shrift to purported "breakthroughs" from amateurs. As to getting senior professors in "serious trouble", that is easier said than done. – cag51 Jul 29 '19 at 2:29
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    @HRIATEXP Welcome to the club! That's a common problem for everyone (just see how many questions there are on this site about late reviews). The answer remains though: you have to write a paper and submit it to a journal, because that is the way results are communicated. – Allure Jul 29 '19 at 2:30
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    @cag51 I'd be surprised if stealing someone else's ideas doesn't lead to serious trouble - higheredprofessor.com/2017/08/07/…, "In addition, academic issues such as research misconduct or plagiarism could fall into this category. Ultimately, conduct of this type is more than just something a president or dean doesn’t like (i.e. disagreeing with a policy position), but behavior that nearly everyone in higher education would agree is unacceptable." – Allure Jul 29 '19 at 2:32
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    It's difficult to write a good academic research paper without having had some training in writing research papers. – Noah Snyder Jul 29 '19 at 12:43
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    E-mail can be forged, I'd suggest sending a copy of your work to yourself using registered mail, then sticking the sealed envelope in a safe-deposit box to be used as evidence if it comes to that. – pjs Jul 29 '19 at 13:45

I have a few suggestions which may be field specific.

First, check out arXiv. It is sometimes used as a place to "park" research prior to peer-reviewed processes such as journal or conference submission. Some authors (who are usually already "big names") publish there and accrue citations, too. Although, as pointed out in comments, you may require some academic input to pass through arXiv's requirements to post. There’s also technically nothing to stop you "publishing" on your own website (or github!), but your work may receive little attention there.

Second, you must be sure that your contribution is novel. Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence and all. The reason you might get a desk rejection is because it’s too easy to dismiss an author with no affiliation and therefore unlikely to have access to a sizeable body of literature. Journal subscriptions can be fairly expensive. If you’re affiliated to an institution, you often get access to many journals that you wouldn’t pay for as an individual. There’s still a reasonable number of publications that aren’t open access. You might get some access via library membership (worth checking). An (appropriately) extensive literature review with citations should overcome this barrier.

Third, journals may publish your work with no costs to you, but you will probably have to pay for open access. That means you’ll sign over copyright of your work and, if you don’t have a subscription to that journal, potentially be unable to see it (unless you paid for open access - fees I’ve seen are 3-4 figures).

Fourth, you should be aware that some journals want you to recommend reviewers. There are some questions on here regarding that already, so I won’t go into the politics of that.

It’s worth getting an academic on board simply to navigate the world of academia and increase the chances of getting published. Alternatively, can you patent it? That would protect your idea even if you choose not to profit from it.

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    Again, people truly outside academia can't just post to arXiv. The site has gatekeeping and outsiders need an endorsement to post. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Jul 29 '19 at 15:34
  • Thanks @dmckee. I’ll edit to take that into account. – Pam Jul 29 '19 at 19:06
  • @Pam, I have made a drawing of a proof-of-concept device that can be used to demonstrate to others why its working principle would be a scientific breakthrough. I am currently working on designing a prototype device that I can build in order to provide hard physical evidence that this device will do what I claim it will do. As to whether it can be patented would depend largely on it actually working. – user111325 Jul 30 '19 at 1:46
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    @Pam, also, I have already shown this proof-of-concept device to a professor at a local university and that person has told me that its working principle is very sound scientifically and that it should work as expected. – user111325 Jul 30 '19 at 1:51
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    @HRIATEXP Patents in the US do not require a working prototype (patents.stackexchange.com/q/5378). They only require a novel, non-obvious, and useful idea. – Cecilia Jul 30 '19 at 3:20