I'm planning to go a large Earth Science conference (couple thousand attendees expected) that does not result in refereed publications. Some other fields (like Computer Science) have conferences that result in publications, but I'm in Earth Science and it's extremely rare our conferences result in publications. Only journal publications really count.


  1. As a student, I have unpublished results that I wish to obtain feedback/input on from experts in the field. But if I present unpublished results, what's to stop someone from stealing my work and publishing it in a journal?

  2. For a different project I'm working on, I published my results in a paper, but I wish to obtain feedback for further work. However, when I submit a conference abstract, I need specify what percentage has been presented or published elsewhere. I hear that if 100% is specified, the abstract will likely be rejected. So it seems presenting published results is unfeasible, while presenting unpublished results is risky (Question 1). So now I'm confused: what do most researchers do?

  • 1
    Can you please say what field you are in, because the answers will likely vary by field (e.g., astronomers have very different practices than biomedical researchers)
    – jakebeal
    Aug 8, 2015 at 21:19
  • 1
    Sure - I'm in Earth Science. I updated the question also.
    – LCW
    Aug 8, 2015 at 21:27

2 Answers 2


On 1, if you present something at a conference, there will be witnesses that you presented it there, and you will have documentation of your work products on your computer, in your lab notebooks, etc. If someone does take your work from your talk and try to publish it, you can work with the journal editor when you discover it to prove that whoever it was stole it from you and have the publication pulled so that you can publish instead. You can also contact the employer of the stealer and have disciplinary procedures started against them. Stealing your work is not outright theft in a legal sense, but it is serious academic misconduct, and shouldn't be taken lightly by anyone.

Also, this isn't dangerous. As far as I know, this kind of stealing basically never happens. That being said, if you want to protect yourself even more, write up you results into a paper draft and get it submitted to a journal ASAP. If the work is under review, then you've got a lot more protection from having your work stolen.

As to 2, "I hear" is a bad standard to base your decisions on. Contact the organizers of this conference and ask for their advice. You might even link to the conference so that we can help you figure out what's going on.

  • Bill Barth, it's the AGU Ocean Sciences conference. I decided not to go, but thanks for the advice.
    – LCW
    Aug 22, 2015 at 3:15

1) It does not happen often that researchers try to steal ideas. The risk may be higher if you are working on a very hot and competitive topic. How to protect yourself: try to publish your result somewhere by submitting a journal paper in the near future would be a good idea.

Besides, the risk is not just that someone may steal your work, but that someone could do something similar but different that provides better results. Let say for example that some researchers see your method A at the conference that is unpublished. Then they publish alternative method B before you publish method A in ajournal and method B works better than your method A. In that case, it may then be hard to publish your method "A" This is why, it is important to not wait too much before you publish your work. This is true if you work on a competitive topic. On some topics, you need to publish very quickly otherwise other researchers will publish ideas before you.

2) Contact the conference organizers. The % depends on the conference/journals where you publish. I have ever seen some venues/journals asking for 30%, 40% or 50% new content. It all depends. You need to ask if it is not indicated on the website.

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