Science and research is open knowledge. We should always share our knowledge with each other. However in current competitive world, scooping research is very common (specially in bioinformatics, methodology and medicinal sciences where research has immediate applications). This has further downstream effects like less chance of getting published in good journal, loss of novelty etc. I was wondering what kind of information generally people share openly versus hide. I know this will depend on kind of research you and your rivals are doing but still is there any commonality ?

To be more specific, I am looking for research in computational biology. Let's say I want to present a poster in a conference where my rival group (working on similar topic) is also presenting. Now how much information about my current research I should present?

  • If you can't patent it or productize it quickly, you should probably publish it.
    – keshlam
    Sep 25, 2015 at 11:53
  • 1
    It is not uncommon to not speak about unpublished results...
    – Greg
    Sep 25, 2015 at 13:36
  • 4
    Given the focus on field, I have voted to reopen.
    – jakebeal
    Sep 25, 2015 at 15:10
  • 6
    I have to admit that the concept of "rival group" strikes me as rather unscientific.
    – Dirk
    Sep 28, 2015 at 6:37
  • 1
    Post to the arXiv or bioRxiv and then don't worry about it.
    – Corvus
    Sep 28, 2015 at 7:36

4 Answers 4


I think that you have to consider and balance, at the very least, the following aspects:

  • Your overall career goals. I would argue that career-wise every researcher wants (and has to) establish themselves as an expert, if not in a discipline, in a particular area(s) of research. With that in mind, it seems pretty obvious to me that sharing your research is much more beneficial then hoarding it. The one potential exception to this approach is noted in my next point.

  • Your current research (that is, particular study's) goals and priorities. If your current research has a potential to be commercialized and you have desire to deal with that and you have financial means (or your institution's support) to do so (as you know, patenting is not cheap, and, as I imagine, patenting in such a complex field, as computational biology, is doubly so), then you might consider taking this route (should be decided on a case by case basis).

  • Impact on potential collaboration. Modern research in many, if not most, fields is highly collaborative. Thus, your decision to significantly limit sharing research results and other related information will most likely make you an unattractive candidate for participating in upcoming collaborative research studies and, therefore, will most likely have a serious negative impact on your future research portfolio and, consequently, research career.

  • 3
    Good answer, but I'll add these aspects: 1) Ethics: would you want other people in your field to follow the same rules of action that you are following, in similar circumstances? 2) Greater good: does your action promote the greater good of the field, both in its academia and business? Sep 28, 2015 at 22:37
  • @MrMeritology: Thank you. You bring up good additional points. Sep 28, 2015 at 23:32
  • Good points ! I guess many times it will be subjective.
    – Dexter
    Nov 9, 2015 at 8:14

If you are worried about showing your work in a conference poster session and then someone scooping your work, I suggest you:

  • write up a rough paper preprint containing/describing this work
  • put that on a public preprint server like the arXiv
  • make it very clear on your poster that you've published the preprint (include a link)

Then it's in the public record that you were first, and anyone trying to scoop you is obligated to cite that preprint and acknowledge you were first.

If it's then the case that someone tries to literally scoop your idea and write a journal paper on it, with no additional work/development from them, their paper would very likely be rejected (if they do the right thing and cite the preprint properly). If they don't cite the preprint, it's a clear case of plagiarism, so if their paper gets published you can contact the journal editor who will very likely have to retract their paper.


This is a poster, right? Print some pretty pictures, give some general descriptions of your techniques, whet their appetite to learn more about your group, give some references to some published papers from your group. Think of this as a PR opportunity for your group.

When individuals visit your poster and chat with you, you'll be able to gauge what the person's motivations are, and share accordingly.


The scholarly community today is more in favor of sharing and open data rather than hiding your research. Research is meant for the benefit of society and should not be kept hidden. The fear of being scooped is of course there, but there are ways to protect your research and your data even while making your research public. Apart from writing a pre-print and putting it up on arXiv, you could also consider hosting your data on public repositories like Figshare or Dryad. You would then get a DOI, and your data would be citable.

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