I posted new theorems and proofs on Mathematics Stack Exchange.

Weeks later, someone else submitted the same results to a Springer journal and the paper was accepted.

How can a publisher like Springer publish stolen results before verifying if they already exist or not? The funny thing is that both of the authors know that these results are mine and one of them kept asking me if I want to publish them together with their results in one article and I declined, as I planned to include them in my second book. Therefore, it is clear this is not a case of simultaneous discovery — the authors were aware of my work and copied it exactly.

What should I do? Thank you.

Update 29 Jan 2023: The article was retracted about two weeks ago

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    For future reference, please note this policy; we can discuss cases in the abstract, but this is not the place to make serious accusations against named individuals (names have since been redacted).
    – cag51
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 16:20
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 15:32

5 Answers 5


I suggest you write a formal letter to the editors of the journal. But you will need to state only facts and not opinions.

In your letter, give the link to your Mathematics Stack Exchange post. Point out that it was published before the paper in question was received by the journal.

You say "both of the authors know that these results are mine." Do you have evidence of this (an e-mail, perhaps)? If so, then include the evidence in your letter.

Request the editors to acknowledge receipt of your letter. You will need evidence that the editors received it. Otherwise, if the editor is unethical and perhaps a close friend of the authors, they will claim that they never received your letter.

It is not enough that you posted your results before their paper was received by the journal. It is possible that they were the ones who created the results, they showed it to you, and you posted it online (before they could submit it to the journal) claiming it was yours. That's why they didn't mention your name in the paper. How do you convince the editors that you are telling the truth?

You need to provide evidence, but note that evidence can be falsified, and that evidence is not proof.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 17:24

How it happens is that nobody at Springer (editors, reviewers, ...) were made aware of the situation in a timely manner. I doubt that there was malice from a company that wants to maintain its reputation. There may be a lack of due diligence, of course, but it is just about impossible to know everything that has been published. And, "publishing" in a question on SE is a bit obscure in the larger world. It might require serendipity if one of the reviewers was a member here. Also, math formulae are very difficult for search engines, complicating due diligence further.

To try to solve the problem, contact Springer directly and lay out your case. A retraction might happen or other facts might come to light. But the authors have likely plagiarized you if you weren't given credit.

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    Editors, reviewers, etc. are not Springer employees, and act autonomously. In cases of plagiarism, you should contact editors of the journal, not directly the publisher. Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 14:30
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    @EmilJeřábek I disagree. This is the time for Springer to perform an internal check, especially because the paper is published and it is now outside the domain of editor & reviewers. Every reputable publisher has a department to investigate plagiarisms/frauds & co.
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 8:57
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    @wizzwizz4 Reformatting, web hosting, printing and profiting: sounds about right. Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 11:30
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    @wizzwizz4 In my experience "reformatting" is often replaced by "mangling formulae", but yeah, that's pretty much it. Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 18:09
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    I don't understand why my comments are being interpreted as "hating the publishers". I'm just pointing out that there are things that they do, and things that they don't do, and anything related to the subject matter of the journals is firmly in the second category, and as such it is handled by the editorial board. This includes issues of academic misconduct. The expected outcome of reported plagiarism is that they will confront the authors, and (if the conclusion is that misconduct happened) publish a corrigendum or outright withdraw the paper. Such actions are the purview of the editors. Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 20:19

The matter will need to be dealt with by the publisher and editors together, so the standard first step is to contact the publisher or an editor or both. The publisher and editors should be in communication with each other, so it shouldn't matter which you choose to contact, but the editors will have more specialized mathematical expertise to give an initial opinion on whether there has been any academic wrongdoing.

The onus is on you to prove your case: one is innocent until proved guilty. This means you need to explain clearly why you believe that you should have received acknowledgement for your work. If equations, phrases or sentences are the same, state precisely which equations, phrases or sentences are the same. If specific ideas used are the same, describe how. You can't expect a reader to spend a long time searching for similarities, particularly for equations that require specialist understanding.

Springer is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). When one of their journals receives concerns of plagiarism, they should follow the COPE guidance for plagiarism in a published article.


It is strange, isn't it, how they will acknowledge to your face that they got it from you with a sunny smile and then turn around and do a thing like this.

Philosophical answer: you are a brilliant person with lots of good ideas, and you don't mind sharing them on a public forum, even if that means other people will snatch them from time to time. Such folks must themselves be low on good ideas, if they really need to cobble together an academic career out of other people's accomplishments.

Pragmatic answer: take this up with the handling editor. Your email must be high on detail (include all the links and dates that prove it was you first) and low on whining and complaining, since that person will probably find the whole thing distasteful anyway.

Political answer: I know I always get downvoted for bringing this up, but the old boys network does exist, it is a fact of life, and handling editor and stealing author may be friends... in which case you may lose the war even if you win the battle.


This answer takes everything in the question at face value.

The actions of the authors will not be looked upon favorably by the journal or the StackExchange network.

You would be able to prove that the ideas have been taken from your post. Besides your email/other correspondence with the authors (hopefully this is recorded), similarities between content, terminology, symbols etc. should be adequate to build your case. Once this is done, the authors run afoul of journal requirements (not to plagiarise) and the StackExchange policy of sharing attribution to any content taken from here (more on this ahead).

As such, the journal should take some action, either requiring that your work be cited or that the paper itself be retracted. Whether or not they do this depends on many factors, such as the journal policy, the editor's conscientiousness, the strength of your argument and so on. The authors should, in my opinion, face some censure (at the least) for indulging in malpractice.

However, my primary concern is something else that you stated :

as I planned to include them in my second book

You should know that anything posted on the SE sites is automatically shared under a cc-by-sa license. This means that anyone is free to share (copy, redistribute) and adapt (remix, transform, build upon - even commercially) content from here, provided that the post-creator is attributed (by author name and by mentioning that the content was posted to SE). Details about attribution here and cc-by-sa here.

In your context, this means that your proofs could legally be used by anyone, so long as they mention that you posted it to SE at a certain link. They are free even to put this in their book and sell that book commercially. By 'remix', I suppose they could simply change some terminology, and then claim that they have 'built upon' your work, perfectly legally.

So while your indignation at being cheated out of credit is justified, your proofs posted online may not be quite as secure as you imagine. We all have different stands on how freely work should be shared, so this may be quite alright with you. To me, it would be a bit naive to share something under a cc-by-sa license when I intend to ultimately put that in a textbook.

However, @BryanKrause has pointed out that this may not be quite as naive as I thought. You, as the creator, are allowed to relicense SE content (when you put it in a textbook, for example). What you have already put out (on SE) can always be used by others under the original cc-by-sa license though. More details on this here.

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    CC-by-SA licensing and academic integrity are not particularly related; there are lots of things you can do while complying with a CC-by-SA license that are academic misconduct, and vice-versa. The license of SE content has very little bearing on how "secure" the work is from the perspective OP has.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jul 22, 2022 at 22:27
  • @BryanKrause- We may be talking about different things. Once OP shares something under cc-by-sa, OP cannot later share it under a more restricted license. Any 'remix' would also have to be licensed cc-by-sa. The latter part of the answer is not about misconduct by other authors, but the rights of OP themselves. Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 8:23
  • @AliShadhar- You'll find some good solutions to that issue on this site, in the form of qustions about protecting discoveries. I think the preferred route for mathematicians is posting to a preprint site. Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 17:04
  • @AppliedAcademic That's not true, you can certainly license cc-by content that is your own under whatever other license you want. You can't revoke the CC-by license, though.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 18:58
  • @BryanKrause- You're right, that is a nice subtlety. I'm incorporating that into the answer, pl feel free to edit as suitable. Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 1:24

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