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At many universities, there are dedicated websites where supervisors can publish information on current research projects looking for students.

These research projects often have some "vague" descriptions regarding the purposes of the projects, methodology/method, expected outcomes and desirable requirements for students.

It raises a question. Is it unethical if someone else from a random university just "snatches" these ideas (after seeing them) and produces research papers themself without contacting or giving credit to the original supervisors?

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The short answer is yes. Laboratories and universities often have webpages explaining their current research interests, sometimes related to open positions for which they are currently hiring. As you said yourself, these descriptions are often rather brief, in order not to drown the job offer into technical details. In any case, way too brief to allow anyone to scoop you.

Let's assume that lab A publishes a brief description of a current research project, and that lab B gets some inspiration for its next project. Per se, there is nothing unethical here, as getting ideas from previous researchers' ideas is the basis of science (if not, nobody would attend, and let alone participate in, conferences): we are "dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants".

But at some point, lab B would need to describe the state of the art, and acknowledge lab A's current work and past contribution. Not doing so would be unethical.

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    And if lab A proposed the project, but hasn't yet made enough progress with it to publish any "current work and past contribution"? Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 9:26
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    @DanielHatton if lab A proposed the project, it means that lab A has an history on the project's topic, at the very bare minimum the Lab's head has at least one publication on the topic of the project to refer to. So lab B must refer to that publication, at the very minimum. If lab A has no previous history on the topic of the project ... it is quite likely that lab A is also piggy-backing on a project of a lab C, with or without giving credit. A dwarf on the shoulder of a dwarf on the shoulder of a giant ... it does not sound very stable :D
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 9:45
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    @EarlGrey Hmm. I've written grant proposals in which the literature I cited did not include any of my own previous work, simply because I hadn't previously worked on anything directly relevant. Let's say my proposal doesn't get funded, but someone who's read it later has some spare money and does the research I proposed themselves (for the avoidance of doubt, this hasn't actually happened to me). The question is, at that point, have I made a creative contribution that deserves formal credit? Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 10:22
  • @DanielHatton You are discussing a different topic. Did you submit the proposal as lab head? or as a lab member? No wonder you did not win the grant: your proposals probably scored low in the "previous experience related to the topic" evaluation box (or in the evaluator assessment). Nonetheless, you are discussing someone taking idea from your proposal. Proposals usually are confidential. Still, people are reading them and getting inspiration, but ... different question than the one posed by OP.
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 12:03
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    @EarlGrey I suppose OP's question is more for the case where the proposal did get funded and a postdoc opportunity was advertised. Still, plenty of postdoc jobs get advertised but are never filled, in which case presumably the money goes back to the funder and my gloss on OP's question still applies. Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 13:52

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