I am a postdoc in mathematics. I read a paper of another mathematician some time ago and I found out that I could extend it. Therefore, I dropped an email to him, and then he told me if I could do it, it would be an interesting result. He also told me "I would be happy to know if you have anything to share with me," I thought that meant he would like to work with me. So, I wrote an email to him that contains all of my ideas. Now, I found out that my ideas work and everything correct.

My problem is he hasn't replied to my email after two weeks and I might be pessimistic but I am scared he steals my ideas and whatever I explained to him.

Even though I am a postdoc, he is a well-known mathematician. Moreover, we both use university emails to contact each other. What should I do now? Thanks in advance.

I have been writing it, but what can I do if he publishes it before me?

  • 5
    Publish what you have written...? At least in a preprint, then you can easily add stuff and authors later if your "co-author" provides input (I don't see where he suggested to work together on a paper, just that he was interested in hearing what you have done)
    – Mark
    Jan 1, 2021 at 11:51

2 Answers 2


Just go ahead and publish. The other mathematician has not contributed to your work in any way other than saying that your results would be interesting. In fact, in my eyes it would be entirely inappropriate for this person to be your coauthor.

I would suggest though to also discuss this with your PI to make sure she/he agrees.


Since you said the senior is a big-named professor, one might speculate that he is too busy to work with you. He is more likely to be too busy to respond and very unlikely that he is trying to steal your work.

Since he is already tenured, the cost of stealing is very very high, and the reward for him will be ultra-low. Any rational mathematician won't steal you ideas as you have emails on hand as proofs.

It is also highly probable that your email is stacked in the huge of piles of email and he missed it, because a senior professor receives tons of emails each day.

Furthermore, seniors are far more likely to respond to a result that is highly polished and well-written with detailed proofs and no grammar mistakes, while most preliminary drafts contain some (minor) mistakes.

So I would send one additional email include a polished version of that paper and if he does not respond again, I will just submit the paper.

Of course, consult your PI (if you have one) before submission.

  • 1
    I don't entirely agree from the 3rd paragraph onwards. Also I don't know why both answers suggest consulting with one's PI. Math postdocs don't typically have PIs.
    – Kimball
    May 12, 2022 at 0:51
  • @Kimball Department funded postdocs don't have PI, while postdocs funded by one professor or the professor's research center have a de facto PI.
    – High GPA
    May 12, 2022 at 1:10
  • @Kimball Hi Kimball I would be very grateful if you could tell me which specific part do you disagree with, as I am still learning. Do you disagree with "seniors prefer to read a well-written, highly polished result without grammar mistakes"?
    – High GPA
    Jul 4, 2022 at 3:27

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