If I have a very good result, should I share it with an academic (Professor) from another part of the world who is an expert in the subject, but whom I have never met?

I’m interested in collaboration, but then again I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag and then have nothing come of it, especially before I’ve published anything. On the other hand as a professional, the other party should stick to their academic code of practice and I should have nothing to worry about, right?

This is work I’ve done in my spare time outside of my other academic duties. Work I do in my paid roles I would just publish myself and wouldn’t feel the need to seek collaboration in this way.

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    If you have the result, why look for a collaborator? – Tobias Kildetoft Sep 11 '15 at 12:10
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    Upload on arxiv (since it sounds to be in maths), submit to a good journal, mention this professor as a potential reviewer. – Cape Code Sep 11 '15 at 12:39
  • Thanks all - I really wasn't quite sure what to do, but your comments have helped me to decide. – Pixel Sep 11 '15 at 12:42

In science, just as in most areas of human activity, most people try to behave ethically but some have skewed views of ethics and some are just plain nasty.

Good ways to protect yourself are:

  1. Asking somebody you trust who knows about the ethical character of the person you are looking to contact.
  2. Putting a draft of your work up online, e.g., arXiv, that can clearly provide a time-stamp on your work.

Collaboration is essential in an academic environment but I suggest you to research the ethical stance of the person you choose to share your ideas with. If you can get a satisfactory answer without having to explain your work in general, then there is no problem. But if you have to explain your work in detail then it becomes a little risky if the other person has a low ethical standards. However if the professor that you're talking about is a well published academic with lots of citations I don't think he\she needs anyone's idea to steal.

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    "The general guideline is: Don't share your work with anyone." - I just cannot agree with this statement in the current general form. Sharing and discussing ideas with other researchers is the basis for getting any contacts that might lead to collaborations, and especially if a work is not yet far enough evolved to be publishable, the synergies with other people's work might be what is missing to make it publishable. While some precautions against plagiarism may be taken, academic research in general is not a place for isolationism, secret projects, or avoiding communication. – O. R. Mapper Sep 11 '15 at 13:09
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    @O.R.Mapper Here is the link of a study on geography of plagiarism published by Science magazine. news.sciencemag.org/scientific-community/2014/12/… I know the essence of scientific development is collaboration however you'd better be careful who you are sharing your ideas with. – QuantallicA Sep 11 '15 at 13:14
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    I do not doubt that a lot of plagiarism happens. Nonetheless, I believe that treating academic research as a secret akin to commercial developments, suspecting other researchers, departments, and institutions of being plagiarizing adversaries and consequently treating them like competition rather than possibly-collaborating-peers, and relying on secrecy and working within a small team rather than searching opportunities for frequent discussion and critique with as many researchers, domain experts, etc. as possible are bad habits for conducting academic research and stifling for its quality. – O. R. Mapper Sep 11 '15 at 13:24
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    You are absolutely right. Let me edit my answer. – QuantallicA Sep 11 '15 at 13:29
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    I definitely second @O.R.Mapper point of view. I work in a quite collaborative environment, but I've met people who had to work with peers unwilling to share ideas and data. and they told me that the collaboration was simply a nightmare. – Massimo Ortolano Sep 11 '15 at 14:09

No. I would recommend against this. If you have a good result, write it up and submit it (at least to ArXiV while you work on a stronger publication, if necessary). It is too easy to get burned. Whether it was paid as part of an academic position or not shouldn't matter, you want the publication so you can strengthen your academic record. Collaborations are great of course, and you shouldn't be secretive about everything you are working on. But to be cautious, if you already have a nice result, it should be something you have presented at conferences in front of other people, or that you have posted to ArXiV in a preliminary form, before you share it with someone that you don't know.

It doesn't matter who the other person is, what their academic position, or how many publications they have. None of this seems to really be a predictor of whether someone will scoop your idea or not, unfortunately.

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