I made a post in this forum a few days ago because I may have developed a new math formula. I was asking about what I should do (I'm pursuing a bachelor's in CS, so I was somewhat lost), and I received really good and clarifying answers!

However, one of the most frequent pieces of advice was to talk to a professor whom I trust. The issue is that I don't know much about my professors, and I'm unsure if discussing a potential new discovery in the field with them might result in them taking the idea and publishing it themselves.

So, how can I determine whom I can trust, and is there a way to "protect" my work before openly discussing it with someone?

I'm asking this because I still don't fully understand how the research area deals with ideas that haven't been published yet. Thanks for any help!

  • 16
    I think your concern in misplaced. A math professor is extremely unlikely to steal the ideas of an undergraduate student. (That's a Hollywood movie plot, not real life.)
    – GEdgar
    Nov 3, 2023 at 19:10
  • 2
    Can you upload your results to something like a private GitHub repo? I also really doubt you have anything to worry about, but just to give you peace of mind, if you're results are significant and credit gets stolen you'd have proof you at least discovered them before they got published.
    – tarzh
    Nov 3, 2023 at 19:19
  • @Gedgar, i see your point, i may be overthinking about it...but i still don't understand how the research area deals with ideas that haven't been published yet...i know it would be a rare case, but i don't know if i can talk to any professor of the math department or it has to be someone i trust....and how to avoid that very small chance of someone taking the idea.
    – TM01
    Nov 3, 2023 at 20:10
  • @tarzh, that's a good idea, it could certainly help if something happens, thanks.
    – TM01
    Nov 3, 2023 at 20:14
  • 2
    You should be more worried about being ignored (and for a reason). Nov 3, 2023 at 23:21

1 Answer 1


If you are unwilling to share your ideas you will probably not get very far, sorry. The faculty at your university are, with rare exception, trustworthy. If you have taken courses with them you see how they interact with people and can judge. Most people in general aren't out to pirate the ideas of others. Exceptions? Yes? But not so common.

Not trusting others means that you have to do it all on your own, which ,in the case you described in the other question, probably isn't possible.

You may have a good idea or not. But don't act as if it is the only good idea you will ever have. Collaboration for novices is a good thing.

Technically it is possible to register a paper with the copyright/trademark office, but it costs money to do so and few bother to do it anymore.

I think, as I said in answer to the earlier question, the most important thing you need now is feedback, not safety.

Newton locked up his ideas about Calculus in a drawer and so Leibniz got credit for the idea(s) years later with independent development. The history is quite interesting, actually. It may be part of the reason we now use Leibniz's notations rather than Newton's since they were published first.

  • 2
    I got your point, you are right! The whole point, in the end, is to share ideas. Collaborating will be good for me to develop some research skills... I will try to find someone to help at my university. Thanks!
    – TM01
    Nov 3, 2023 at 21:09

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