Let's assume someone has a very thorough knowledge of a particular field of science but they have absolutely no formal education in this background.

This individual one day realizes a very novel approach to solving a somewhat complex problem. After developing independent tests and coming up with rock-solid evidence that her method is groundbreaking, and consistently produces test results that would be impossible without a legitimate solution, what can she do with her research to both share the information with the world and retain some form of credit for the discovery?

In other words, how can one be both a hobbyist contributing to a field of scientific study and yet also retain the respect they deserve for their work if it is of great use and benefit?

To be clear, this isn't about having one's name appear in a Science Journal without the necessary credentials. I think it's respectable to maintain certain sets of rules and standards for journalistic publications. However, it also isn't fair for such a person to have to divulge this information to someone who is "qualified" and have them receive all or most of the credit for someone elses work, just because that other person hasn't earned a piece of paper.

How can hobbyist both share, and maintain, the recognition they deserve if they make a legitimate scientific breakthrough?

marked as duplicate by EnergyNumbers, Enthusiastic Engineer, Moriarty, scaaahu, J. Zimmerman Nov 18 '14 at 3:29

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    You could always write it up in a less formal manner and submit it to arxiv.org so that it is documented, public, and timestamped. Getting attention to it is another problem though. – Austin Henley Nov 17 '14 at 18:25
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    I think writing a good paper will be pretty easy for you: very very few scientists ever attain "a very thorough knowledge of a particular field of science", yet publish, so you'll be fine. – EnergyNumbers Nov 17 '14 at 18:29
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    Several comments have suggested posting to arXiv, but this will not be possible without either an existing publication history in the particular subfield or the endorsement of a respected practitioner of that subfield. – dmckee Nov 17 '14 at 19:50
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    In all of my experience, scientific breakthroughs are never made by hobbyists. They are sometimes -- not that rarely -- made by amateurs, but that's not the same thing at all. Amateurs love the subject, so they are willing to spend as long as it takes to develop their ideas to fruition (or see for themselves that they do not work out as they originally thought). Hobbyists settle for convincing (to them) evidence that they have had the essential idea of a scientific breakthrough and want recognition for this alone: they are not interested in spadework. – Pete L. Clark Nov 17 '14 at 22:02

I see a few approaches you could take (or some combination):

  • Write up the idea as a white paper and submit to http://arxiv.org (or something similar). This gets the idea documented, public, timestamped, and allows people to easily cite it.
  • Reach out to researchers in the field to see if they would be willing to help you form a scientific paper based on your idea. Not all professors are scary!
  • Submit to the industry track of a research conference if you have an industry background (if not, then maybe a workshop). Some conferences elicit papers from industry that can get your idea out there, generate discussion, and allows you to get feedback. These tracks are often less competitive and very open to non-researchers. For example, Software Engineering In Practice at the International Conference on Software Engineering
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    ArXiv is not an open forum anymore; a history or endorsement is required. – dmckee Nov 17 '14 at 19:51
  • @dmckee Do you know of an alternative website for him? Although, it seems simple enough to find an endorser. – Austin Henley Nov 17 '14 at 19:55
  • @dmckee Maybe vixra.org? – Austin Henley Nov 17 '14 at 19:58
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    Vixra will serve to establish priority, but it could beget more resistance to being taken seriously. I don't know how seriously he should worry about that. – dmckee Nov 17 '14 at 20:07
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    @DavidRicherby Even a groundbreaking idea may require a formal evaluation, thorough lit review, and a write-up that follows the field's conventions. None of which is trivial for someone with no experience. – Austin Henley Nov 17 '14 at 22:23

I guess there are quite a few scientists that have not graduated in a certain field and later prominently published in it. The best thing to do is to talk to people about it e.g. on conferences or seminars. Because in the end that is what you want: Get feedback/support/critique from other experts in the field. If you have discovered a breakthrough, writing it down in an abstract or discussion paper should be the easiest thing. Hand it in at conferences or local university faculties in order to get the chance to speak about it. If it is good, they will tell. If it aint, they will let you know. Most people I met in academia are open minded and willing to give you a chance (whether or not you have a degree in the field) if they found your abstract/paper interesting enough.

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