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A prospective employer requested a copy of my PhD thesis and some unpublished papers (still working on them). Is it wise to hand these to them?

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    How do they know about those papers? If you mentioned them as part of applying for the job, then it seems reasonable for them to ask to see the papers in question. Feb 20, 2015 at 9:57
  • The papers are based on some unpublished chapters of the thesis (some are close to being published, others not) Feb 20, 2015 at 10:01
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    That does not really answer my question. Feb 20, 2015 at 10:03
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    I suspect the question is not about Rudy's ethics but his potential employer's.
    – Bill Barth
    Feb 20, 2015 at 12:36
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    A word of advice for OP: if you are authorized to share your research with the company in question, don't do so until you are their employee. You'd be surprised with some of the s$%t some companies will try to get away with.
    – Mad Jack
    Feb 20, 2015 at 17:54

3 Answers 3

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From the ethics course we had to take during the first semester of grad school: it depends.

If your research contains anything that is waiting to be patented, then you can't pass it on to a potential employer.

If your research was funded by industry, then you can't pass on unpublished work without the permission of whoever funded it (you could get sued).

If it is part of a larger project that your advisor is working on, then you shouldn't pass it on without their permission (you probably won't face legal action, but your advisor could be very upset with you).

As Nate pointed out in the comments, if you have coauthors for any of this material, you need to check with them before passing on anything.

If it was funded by anyone who made you sign confidentiality agreements, then you can't pass it on without permission (I know people who receive funding from the NSA for cryptography work, or the DoD to work on certain engineering projects who had to sign such papers).

If your chapters contain medical or otherwise personal data collected, make sure it has been anonymised to whatever standards there are in your field (HIPAA etc).

If none of these apply, then you can probably pass it on without problems. I would still check with my advisor if I were you though, just to make sure.

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    This is a good answer and contains a number of points that one might otherwise overlook. I would add an item (similar to your third point) that if you have co-authors, you should get their permission. Feb 20, 2015 at 16:50
  • @NateEldredge Good point :) I'll edit to add that.
    – user141592
    Feb 20, 2015 at 17:34
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I agree completely with Johanna. Chances are, if you mentioned the papers during an interview, they might be trying to assess your ability by looking at your work, much like a portfolio. They probably aren't looking to steal your work, if that's what you're worried about. And if you are worried about that, why would you even want to work for them at all?

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    They probably aren't looking to steal your work, if that's what you're worried about. — My personal experience, and that of others I know, says otherwise.
    – Mad Jack
    Feb 20, 2015 at 17:50
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    @MadJack, then I reefer to my follow-up question; if that's true, why would you want to work there at all? Feb 20, 2015 at 19:16
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If you value the papers, give them a sample or a copyrighted version, if you think they are valuable enough to put copyright on. But if not, send them, and if they copy, you ruin their reputation by creating a campaign on social media about mistreatment of employees.

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    a copyrighted version — As opposed to what? By the Berne convention, all writing is automatically copyrighted by its author.
    – JeffE
    Mar 15, 2015 at 22:08

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