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I completed my PhD last year and now work in industry. Nevertheless I've continued to work privately on my MSc and PhD thesis' work and lately I've been getting stellar results on the work I did for my MSc thesis. (My thesis work is unrelated to my current employment.) The results have undeniable commercial potential which I hope to explore; yet perhaps because I've spent so much time in academia, I have the urge to publish. I'm keenly aware that publishing has the risk of ceding my competitive advantage to potential competitors, yet I know of a couple of academics who both publish state of the art research in the area of their growing businesses. Therefore I suspect that under some circumstances it is possible to be involved in enterprise and publish, although I'm not sure what those circumstances are.

I'd appreciate your thoughts on this issue. When is it okay to publish when doing enterprise?

Edit: my question is not about whether it is okay to publish if outside academia. Rather, it's about when its okay to publish research that is being seriously considered for a (future) commercial product.

  • A great question! However, the answer may vary with respect to field, type of discovery, its patentability, how much publishing is beneficial to the society (and your position) vs how much the sole publication can help your direct competitors, etc. Also, bear in mind that publishing is a mean of claiming one's authorship and (if it's stellar) bringing others' eyes to it. BTW: some people outside of academia do publish. If it is unrelated to your work, then there should be no conflict of interests (unless you want to pursue it later, which is also a tricky question). – Piotr Migdal Sep 27 '12 at 19:34
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  • I apologize. I realize my question was a ambiguous. Please refer to the edit. Thanks. – Olumide Sep 27 '12 at 20:50
  • If you signed a "non-disclosure agreement" as a condition of employment, then be careful that your employer will not interpret your publication as being in violation of that. You say that your research is unrelated, but it might be dangerous to assume that your employer will agree. – paul garrett Sep 27 '12 at 21:07
  • The work that I do has got absolutely nothing to do with my MSc or PhD research. Its something I do privately after work at home. – Olumide Sep 27 '12 at 21:13
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The results have undeniable commercial potential

You don't mention which industry you work in, but within the industries I'm familiar with, companies own everything that comes out of their employees' brains. By default, your ideas, techniques, code, and results are almost certainly the property of your employer—even if you developed them at home on your own time using your own personal equipment— and they may not be inclined to let you exploit them commercially. Read your employment contract very carefully.

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    Thanks. I am aware that many companies do this. But this is not the crux of my question. I'm asking more generally, assuming that one is not in any employment self-employed, under what circumstances it okay to publish research that is being considered for a future commercial product? I'm asking because I've seen a couple of academics publish such research without creating hurting their businesses. – Olumide Sep 27 '12 at 23:12

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