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I am a graduate student in physics who has an idea for a project which I believe to be sound. It is outside my advisor's area of expertise, but I am reasonably familiar with the field. My main concern with this project is how obvious of an extension of recent work it appears to be, and I suspect that someone out there has likely thought of a similar idea and is currently working on it as well. Would it be inappropriate to email a professor who's more well-versed in the field and ask if they're aware of anyone who has begun working on a similar project?

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    Hmmm. Would they say no and then immediately start work on it? – Buffy Sep 22 at 19:03
  • Maybe? I guess that can't be helped. They seem like a reasonable enough person and I would hope they would at least be open to collaboration. That may not be the case, but I think it would be a risk I'm willing to take given the context. – joeshale32 Sep 22 at 19:12
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    Some random professor? or someone in your dept? – Azor Ahai -him- Sep 22 at 19:12
  • Not in my department, but at a nearby university. – joeshale32 Sep 22 at 19:15
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    In general, the question 'is this new?' always exists for all research projects. I may have an idea, and to my best effort, Google doesn't come up with anything similar. So I assume it is 'safe' to move forward. However, there is always an inkling that I might have missed something, or that the keywords I used are incorrect; someone called an apple something else for example. Another possibility is that the idea exists in a non-English publication. So you are never sure. You just move forward when you are sufficiently confident and hope for the best. – Prof. Santa Claus Sep 22 at 21:18
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Would it be inappropriate to email a professor who's more well-versed in the field and ask if they're aware of anyone who has begun working on a similar project?

Absolutely not, I'd say. I've emailed several professors from different schools, textbook authors, and other people. While you may not get a reply (that's ok!) it takes zero effort to write and the pay off can be large. You're not going to offend someone by sending a nicely worded email inquiring about their field. If they don't care to answer they won't. So why not?

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