Two people form a research partnership to investigate a specific research question. Person A comes up with the question draws up a plan. Person B joins and advises on the approach and assists in data collection (a significant enough contribution to be a co-author). They both run the analysis together but have a difference of opinion on how to write up the study. They can't agree and the research partnership dissolves. Person A and Person B both want to pursue the question independently using the data they jointly collected but neither will consent to the other submitting first. Does the research question and data dissolve with the partnership or is there a way forward I can't see?

  • Seems as if Person A and Person B discussed the issue, all sorts of outcomes are possible. Mar 29 at 2:44
  • Unfortunately the relationship has deteriorated and no discussion is likely.
    – AussieK
    Mar 29 at 6:38

1 Answer 1


In as much as you are asking about "ideas", no one owns them and anyone is free to follow up on them.

But if you are asking about who owns the product of joint work, work worth of authorship, then everyone contributing IP has a stake and that stake can't be claimed by others. If you can't come to any agreement, then you are stuck and anyone can potentially prevent publication or force a withdrawal. So, your best option, if you want to continue, is to come to some accommodation.

It is, however, possible in principle to start over, discarding all previous work, based only on ideas. That is risky, however, as it is difficult to do it "cleanly" without generating complaints from others.

  • Thanks for answering the question. I would have thought that there was some IP in the research question but interesting to hear that that's not the case. That will help in mediating a path forward.
    – AussieK
    Mar 29 at 11:42
  • The whole idea of there being any general thing called "intellectual property" is itself debated. Stallman (of the GNU) project, for examples, argues that the term conflates a group of vastly different legal constructs (including patents, copyrights, and trademarks) that have different legal origins and different legal purposes. Mar 30 at 10:02

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