I made a research proposal for a PhD position. I was able to secure a conditional offer from a UK university but did not secure funding as the UK prof did not fund my project. After completing my PhD from another institution in my home country (on a different topic from the UK PhD idea), I have now applied for a postdoc fellowship revising the original PhD proposal which secured me a PhD position in the UK.

I applied for this postdoc fellowship from a different EU university. I want to ask can the UK institution and professor object to choosing another host institution for this postdoc.?

2 Answers 2


Yes, you can develop your earlier ideas. If others have contributed to them you need to, at least, acknowledge those contributions to avoid any charge of plagiarism. But no one can stop you from developing an idea (patent law aside).

If an idea is "out there" then anyone can work on it. It is only necessary to acknowledge others who contribute. Sufficient contribution earns others the right of authorship, of course.

I think it would be a mistake, for lots of reasons, to hide your future development from others you've worked with in the past. Collaborations are usually valuable to early career researchers. But those discussions haven't given ownership or control over the concept to anyone. If someone would object, it would be improper. If someone would ask to be part of your research it would probably be an advantage all around.

And, beyond this proposal, I suggest that you keep a notebook of research ideas that might bear fruit someday, but which you don't have time at the moment to work on. These commonly arise while doing other research. Put separate ideas on separate pages/documents and review them periodically. Some of them might be developed while you seem stuck on your current project. Some might be developed later when you are done and waiting for word from publishers.


You are still the owner of your original proposal, which was made without input from your potential UK host institution. Even if there was some discussion that improved the proposal, they were unable to accept your offer, and you are therefore free to pursue it in another context. If your denied Ph.D. proposal reflected a lot of contribution of the UK institution or your potential UK guide, then it would be polite to talk to whoever helped you with the proposal.

Of course, if the UK people did not like the idea, this fact might give you some feedback about the value of your idea.

  • Thank you for your response. There was certainly some discussion with the professor which helped me improve the proposal but all this was 4 years back. I have not had any chat with him since then. This time I have considerably revised the proposal myself (but the original idea remains the same) to suit it as per the postdoc standards. I am somehow bothered if I am doing something which is not per academic ethics by not letting the UK professor know about all this and if this could pose a problem for me later on.
    – SnyderX
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 10:57
  • "Owner" is too strong, but certainly the OP can develop any ideas they have. Acknowledgement of the folks who participated in the development of the ideas may be all that is required here. And there is little reason to hide the future development from those people.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 12:39

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