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I'm an undergraduate student just getting started with a proper research in machine learning. Oftentimes, when I'm experimenting with new ideas, I find that a similar or better research was already published few years back. In most cases, since the research I found was much better than my current experimental idea, I read that paper and move on.

But recently, I have found that many of my newer ideas are NOT yet published anywhere but most of them are submitted for review to different conferences (on OpenReview etc.) or some form of pre-print manuscript for them is available on arXiv.

Is it ethical in such to submit my idea to another conference as a publication ? It is really demotivating for me since I can't provide any publishable research for my thesis. Can someone suggest me a way to avoid situations like this ? (Searching on arXiv/Google doesn't help because the terminology used is sometimes very different)

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If you have used those preprints to advance your ideas then it would be unethical to try to beat those authors in a race to publication of those ideas.

The problem is twofold. The first is just the possibility of a perception that you are acting improperly. This can be a big negative. But the second is that, seeing the other work, you have been already influenced by it, so it may not be proper to claim "priority".

You should probably do two things.

The first is to continue developing the ideas on your own and see where it takes you. Write them up as best you can.

The second is to wait and see what develops from the papers you studied.

If the final form of the other papers don't match what you have done you are free to publish (of course) and you may have a quick extension. You may even have a paper "ready to go".

But if they do match your results, you can just treat it as feedback that your thinking is sound and that you are developing appropriately as a researcher. Moreover it is evidence that you are approaching the research "frontier" earlier than many are able to do.

Since you are still an undergraduate such training is good, even if it doesn't result in a publication.

You also have an opportunity to contact those authors, now or later, as potential collaborators. Building a circle of people who are interested in the same things you are is a valuable resource.


And, of course, you said that most of your ideas are appearing in print. Don't neglect to follow up on the others.

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