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A tad similar to this question here but also quite different, so here's the current debacle:

In one of my classes I taught, the final project entails students getting in groups and having to run a mini experiment of their own. One of the groups had a very cool idea that I thought was great and unique but didn't give much thought to. Fast forward about half a year or so to now. I revisited their idea and realized that their idea could, in fact, be a Study 1 that's part of an overall larger series of projects I'm hoping to conduct. Of course, because their study was a class project (meaning that it has no IRB, sample size is extremely small and therefore statistically underpowered, no supervision from faculty or grad students for quality check, etc.), I can't simply slap their results on my paper and give them coauthorships like you might do with other collaborators.

That being said, I'll have to run a replication study of their idea to meet publication standards and rigor. Normally, I would see if the students would want to be research assistants to help me replicate their study and give them coauthorships on any posters, oral presentations, or papers that come out of this. However, I don't think I'll be able to get the study started for a while and all these students are currently 4th years (meaning they will graduate in approximately 6 months).

With that in mind, is it ethical to replicate the study with my own batch of research assistants in the future and give credit to the class students in only the acknowledgement sessions for giving me the idea for one of the studies in the paper?

Or would one have to give authorship to the students? I personally follow a code of publication ethics where authorship is mainly reserved for those who played a role in the actual writing of the paper or collection of primary data but of course am open to hearing out other opinions and changing my code. (Note: my field is Psychology)

Small edit: I see this case as being different from citing published papers or preprints given that the work is still novel and not published. But the students' project is actually on Youtube so it can be regarded as public. Perhaps I'm intuitively sensing that it is different given that they were my direct students.

Final update (5/11/22): I've since changed my approach and now agree with others that intellectual contributions warrant giving credit to in the form of coauthorship. Unfortunately, the specific project that spurred this question never came to fruition due to the COVID pandemic as it required in-person activities.

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    I'm somewhat distant from your context, but if they're already "published" on YouTube, citing their video (but no co-authorship) would seem reasonable to me... in terms of fair-play and such. And maybe ask them if they'd want an opportunity to continue on your extension of their project... or not. Dec 10, 2019 at 22:24
  • That was also a rationalization I reached as well from a strictly academic code of ethical conduct point of view. Perhaps it is because it is the same institution and the fact that they were my students that it's bothering me--but this may just simply be me worrying over nothing.
    – ssjjaca
    Dec 10, 2019 at 22:27
  • In particular, if you're not actually "scooping" them in any on-going projects of theirs, you're not "playing unfair", I think. Yes, you had "inside information", but that does not necessarily mean that you can't do anything ever... If you wanted to be squeaky clean, I guess contact them and ask them what their own plans are... Dec 10, 2019 at 23:01
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    "I don't think I'll be able to get the study started for a while and all these students are currently 4th years" Do these people really need to be around to study with you? Can't you collaborate from afar? Have you considered offering them grad. positions (perhaps masters degree)? If you think there are many projects to be conducted you can fit 3-4 masters thesis after you all co-author the study 1. Dec 11, 2019 at 8:13
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    "I personally follow a code of publication ethics where authorship is mainly reserved for those who played a role in the actual writing of the paper or collection of primary data" your personal code is wrong. It implies you can get an idea from someone else, do the same consequent experiments quicker and better than they would do and publish their ideas without burning any neuron time on thinking about "the idea". The idea is a very fundamental contribution, even if the "thinker" cannot write. Do not be selfish, not even by accident, stop your thinking of authorships in these limiting terms.
    – EarlGrey
    Dec 7, 2021 at 9:43

1 Answer 1

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Given your description of events, the students have made unmistakable intellectual contributions to your proposed project. As such, they are naturally authors. You should invite them into the project, indicating that they will be authors even if they do relatively little from this point on.

But if you give the impression that the concept is your own, then it is plagiarism.

Acknowledgement here is not enough. It would imply that they helped you with your ideas rather than the other way about. Furthermore, as a professor, it is good and wise to be generous in such things. Their success reflects on you, I'll also note.

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    +1 for "the students have made unmistakable intellectual contributions to your proposed project. As such, they are naturally authors" If someone comes up with a brilliant idea that no one else had, even if they do not write a single line of the concrete paper, they should be an author. These rules for co-authorship popular today try to avoid courtesy co-authorships where someone makes a remark that earns them authorship pro forma. Crucial ideas that make or break a research direction are in a different class. However, since the method is on Youtube, a (very clear) citation might also work. Sep 7, 2021 at 15:49
  • Agreed with @Buffy. I've since updated my approach to coauthorship :) (made a final update to the question).
    – ssjjaca
    May 12 at 1:39

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