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I am finishing writing a joint paper with a collaborator and we are both extremely excited about the results. However, we cannot agree on when to announce the results.

In my opinion the paper is essentially ready and we should announce the results very soon. The field in which we are working in is booming right now, there are several brilliant, quick people we are competing with. We have a breakthrough result and in my field it is not unusual to see people arrive at the same results simultaneously and independently. Seeing a lot of activity and knowing more or less what people are working on I feel that we need to secure priority essentially immediately. This would mean e.g. circulating the current version of the preprint among colleagues or, ideally, posting it on a preprint server.

My co-author on the other hand would like to explore other potential applications of our results. The main result of the paper is complete, and the only question is how many applications we can have. We currently have 5 very nice applications but my co-author would like to look for more. If they are found they would be certainly good, but at this point it is more of a fishing expedition. However, because of this my co-author demands that we announce our results three months from now and is insisting on a gag order until then. (In our field it is not uncommon to lose results to dishonest researchers who learn about your result early and can try to publish/attach their name to it before you).

Basically, I feel like we are sitting at a roulette table with a million dollars but instead of cashing in we are waiting to see if we can win another 100k. I would really appreciate some advice on how to reasonably resolve this situation.

  • are you and your co-author at the same level in academic hierarchy, or do one of you have superiority over the other? – posdef Oct 20 '14 at 10:20
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    I don't think that matters much, but: I am tenure track, my co-author is tenured; experience-wise we're quite close, since I have done a decent amount of work; most importantly, the idea for the project and the majority of the work came from me, although in mathematics all co-authors are considered to be equal. – user10439561 Oct 20 '14 at 10:40
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    "She demands that we announce our results three months from now" Say what? You are both faculty, and she demands that you leave the results that you primarily worked on be? – xLeitix Oct 20 '14 at 10:55
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    What I don't understand is the following - you don't need any applications to just circulate a result. Yes, more applications likely means that it is easier to publish in better journals, but why is this important for putting a report up in arXiv? – xLeitix Oct 20 '14 at 10:57
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    What to do if a co-author is delaying announcement of results? — Work it out like adults. – JeffE Oct 20 '14 at 12:40
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I think you should push harder to get the paper onto arXiv. The important thing is to have a rational discussion with your co-author where you discuss your worries and try to address them. Here are some additional arguments you can try to use to convince your co-author:

  • If someone discovered your main results and puts it on arXiv right now, you lose potentially a lot. (Though not everything; if the result is reasonably deep posting your paper one or two days after the other group will result in recognition as "simultaneous discovery" at least.)
  • If you posted your paper and someone else derived good applications from it, you still gain some increases in your h-index (probably).
  • Posting things on arXiv does not mean the paper is immutable. You can continue to think about further applications and revise the paper as necessary. It is only after you submitted the paper at a journal for review that you really have to start worrying about making big changes to the manuscript.

But absent you finding out exactly why it is that your co-author is reluctant to post the manuscript on arXiv, the brainstorming sessions with strangers on the internet can only go so far.

I probably am not familiar with your subfield of mathematics, but this mentality of "In mathematics being able to apply your result is what makes it more sellable, papers are sometimes turned down if the result itself is too technical but there are no applications in sight" is foreign to me. In PDEs frequently a technique is developed to solve one or two problems initially. And the originators then work very hard the next few years to extend the technique to apply to many different problems. It is surprising that you are still worrying about the number of applications when you already have five!

  • Thanks, this is helpful. In a way, I am hoping to make sure that I am not being unreasonable. I want to have a good strategy to achieve what I think is necessary here, but also I don't want to jeopardize the relationship with my co-author. The main reason why my co-author is reluctant to post the article, as I understand it, is that she is hoping to amplify/maximize the effect our paper will have. To me it is the classic bird in hand vs two in the bush, only in this case we don't even know that there is more to find. – user10439561 Oct 20 '14 at 13:22
  • One potential issue with arxiv is that, depending on the field and the journals they may wish to submit to, this may be deemed a "prior publication" of the work and can result in the paper getting rejected. Mathematicians and mathematics journals usually don't care (if anything they prefer an arxiv version to be pre-existing), but other fields may differ in how accepting they are of arxiv preprints. – zibadawa timmy Mar 7 '17 at 1:35
  • @zibadawatimmy: the OP stated in the question, I quote: "ideally, posting it on a preprint server." Whatever field he or she is in is probably not one where the concern you raised matters. – Willie Wong Mar 12 '17 at 14:40

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