During my childhood, I use to listen the news with the phrases such as:

Dr. scientist, professor of physics at university of Stanford invented/discovered the phenomenon..........

The italics used here are dummy values and can be replaced according to the person, place, time and invention.

Now-a-days, although there are contributions from academia, there are phenomenal contributions from commercial or research organizations outside academia. Currently, this may not be applicable to some fields like mathematics etc., but it seems that out-academic contributions will be phenomenal in all domains in the coming future.

How do professors perceive this?

  • 7
    Not a professor. But predictions that something will be phenomenal set the skeptical part of my brain in alert mode. Jul 7 at 23:42
  • 9
    The general mechanism is no different than in the past, in all scientific fields, I think. So the premise is misguided. E.g., I (as a math prof in the U.S.) perceive scientific (not only math) contributions from non-academic sources as being... just that. There's nothing to "perceive", in any charged sense. That there are serious people/projects not in academe has always been the case, so no adjustment of worldview is necessary to accommodate current events. Jul 7 at 23:55
  • 3
    I don't know if the share of scientific contributions from outside academia has been increasing, but there definitely have been "phenomenal contributions" from non-academic institutions over the past several decades, and probably since forever (e.g. Bell Labs).
    – GoodDeeds
    Jul 8 at 0:29
  • 1
    Your question's rather vague. What do you mean by "perceive"? I suspect it'll be as normal, because breakthrough is breakthrough regardless of who is behind the breakthrough. Are you asking if professors get jealous? If they consider career swapping?
    – Allure
    Jul 8 at 0:41
  • Yeah, I am asking regarding the selection of profession for contribution. @Allure
    – hanugm
    Jul 8 at 0:54

Many "breakthroughs" outside academia are secret and professors never hear about them. This includes trade secrets and military secrets.

Achievements from industrial research labs which do become public are treated in the same way that achievements from academic labs are treated.

Most science, including the really good stuff, is incremental progress (small steps) and not "breakthroughs." Breakthroughs are largely an idea made up by popular media.


Breakthroughs from outside academia are nothing new. The light bulb was not invented by a professor, nor was the telephone. In fact, you might be interested in stories about the Bell Labs and the Xerox Labs as examples of research institutions run by companies.

As such, most professors will probably neither be surprised nor bothered or concerned in the least by "breakthroughs from outside academia". This has always happened, and it's a good thing: In many regards, technological progress is driven by advances made in the private sector. Many of these advances were made possible by academic research, but it takes both.


Professors in subjects like CIS and physics receive many such emails every year. So far, some large percentage (99%? more?) have turned out to be from cranks.* So, even if your contribution is the exception, many of them will disregard it.

Perhaps the thing to do is write it up carefully, and submit to a reputable journal. They are more likely to give your breakthrough some attention.

* crank an eccentric or odd person, esp someone who stubbornly maintains unusual views


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