I am a physics undergraduate. We were working on a summer research project, while this idea unexpectedly came up. We worked on it for some months and developed a low-cost alternative for one lab equipment that we were using for our project. We have performed various standard tests on our equipment, and in all of them, our equipment fares well, mostly on par with the commercially available equipment. We have done the literature review, and ours is a novel idea.

We are not much interested in patenting or marketing the product because of the huge time and resources involved. To clarify, our equipment does not have any 'breakthrough' technologies involved, it is just a handier and a more affordable version of otherwise expensive equipment, but it gets the work done. We want to share this idea so that it may help others like us, but at the same time get us some credit for it.

We are new to this kind of research, hence do not know what to do next. Ideally, how do you go about publishing such a topic?

  • Hi Bob, to me this looks like a "shopping" question here as a request for a particular journal, which we consider off topic. – Bryan Krause Dec 11 '20 at 15:24
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    I can't answer your question (which will likely be promptly closed as an off-topic shopping question), but, I'm wondering whether publication is a worthy of pursuit. Form a partnership with a competitor, incorporate a business (perhaps poaching staff from competitors), find a way to take your product to market. You might seek a patent, but I'm unsure whether that's possible, given you've already disclosed your idea (to three different editors). Eventually, you might publish as a white paper. (I don't understand why you'd go to the effort of developing a product and not want to see it used.) – user2768 Dec 11 '20 at 15:28
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    @user2768 launching a company is no trivial pursuit. there's a reason why most scientists stick to publishing papers – taylor swift Dec 12 '20 at 0:14
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    @taylorswift Launching a company, publishing a paper, they're trivial pursuits, building a company, having impact, they're hard. Some scientists may be content sticking to just research, but, if scientists want to make an impact, they need to work on knowledge transfer, form relationships with industry, or perhaps build a company themselves. – user2768 Dec 14 '20 at 11:08
  • Do you have a faculty advisor? If yes, talk to them! If not, try to find a faculty in your department to give you advice. – user2705196 Dec 15 '20 at 14:13

You might try talking to your university's intellectual property commercialization people, anyway. I think what you want is a patent. That's a non-academic publication, which although not peer reviewed should still command a reasonable level of academic respect. You don't even have to form a spin-off company as suggested in the comments or partner with one. Your university will probably have a mechanism for this already, at least in the US. You don't have to market or enforce your patents, and you can commit/pledge your patent to the public domain so that others may use or extend the technology, which they could do anyway if you just published it in a journal.

  • Totally agree. Yes, you want to explore a patent. – Buffy Dec 11 '20 at 15:45
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    @Buffy and Bill: no, please, don't suggest to patent. As someone who works in instrumentation, believe me, the chances that something like that is worth patenting are veeeeeery thin. – Massimo Ortolano Dec 11 '20 at 18:17
  • @MassimoOrtolano, care to explain more? – Bill Barth Dec 11 '20 at 18:30
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    @BillBarth For many reasons. First, the idea that their equipment is less expensive than the commercial one is misguided: students simply don't know what makes the cost of an instrument (this is something I discuss in my classes exactly for this). So, almost certainly, their idea wouldn't lead to less expensive commercial equipment. Then, the probability that their design is really new among the sheer number of published and patented designs is virtually zero. Finally, if actually new, the probability that their design improves over the existing ones is even less. – Massimo Ortolano Dec 11 '20 at 19:00
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    @MassimoOrtolano, actually, the advice was to explore it with the IP lawyers. They will have valid individual advice. – Buffy Dec 11 '20 at 19:25

Have you tried Review of Scientific Instruments?

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    Another option would be the American Journal of Physics which has articles on low-cost equipment suitable for undergraduate labs. – Jon Custer Dec 11 '20 at 17:43

One option is to describe your device in detail in the next publication making use of it to acquire data.

The major drawback of that strategy is that outstanding experimental design is only a minor plus for reviewers. You still need some interesting results/analysis to publish it, which may not be easy to obtain. It is therefore possible that you publish very late, or not at all, if this is a short-term undergrad project.

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