I have multiple questions regarding talks and poster presentations. I am in my second year of PhD (computational biology) and have not yet published any paper. Keeping my background in mind do answer my question if possible:

My question is: Is it okay to give poster/talk of your unpublished work? Is there any risk of leakage of research idea via this?

(Leakage in the sense that I do a work and someone probably was thinking in the same line, now gets the idea from my work and works fast enough to publish it before me)

  • 1
    Generally speaking, posters must be unpublished work, and talks in many cases must be as well. You will have to explain why you think you have an especially high risk of "leakage" given one of the purposes of conferences is the discussion of unpublished research.
    – MJeffryes
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 9:48
  • 3
    I think this is a wonderful question for your supervisor, who knows exactly the state of your research.
    – Davidmh
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 10:07
  • Is your poster accepted for any possible inclusion in proceedings? Considering your CSE background, many top-tier conferences have separate poster/demo track. These conference proceedings include the accepted and presented posters.
    – Mithun
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 10:13
  • I have not yet given the abstract. I am just trying the understand the dynamics in the field of research... So asked this question
    – girl101
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 10:17
  • 3
    @MJeffryes "posters must be unpublished" definitely not true in physics. I know a chemistry PI who forbids presentation of work unpublished in journals. He claims someone stole his results once. Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 10:36

2 Answers 2


Is it okay to give poster/talk of your unpublished work?

Yes, it's okay.

Is there any risk of leakage of research idea via this?

Somehow, but not really. The chance is much higher that 1) people will find your idea interesting (if it's good) but keep working on the things they work on already and 2) the idea is already floating around or may pop up anyway.

I can't argue with Martin Argerami's answer that there is a risk when you present unpublished work. But you also can argue that there is the risk that you will run over by a car when you walk on a street.

So what I am trying to say is that the benefit of publicizing your ideas, get in contact with people, maybe even starting collaboration very much outweighs the risk of ideas getting stolen. Especially as a PhD student it seems crucial to me that you should take any opportunity to publicize your work in talk and with posters. This is how you enter the academic system, get in contact with all sorts of people which may be important for your academic career in one way or another (and you will meet many regularly for your entire career).

"Stealing" other's ideas happens rarely, but more importantly, in many cases it is really not clear if some idea is "stolen". Ideas pop up at various places all the time and especially good ideas tend to pop up at different places simultaneously (there is, for example, this famous BFGS-method in optimization which has its name since it was found by four people simultaneously in the same year). Actually, this is sometimes how you can recognize a good idea. I may also be that your ideas was inspired by talks with your supervisor (or anybody else) and she also talked with other people, thereby inspiring them to have similar ideas.

So, while one can't neglect that science is somehow a competition in that you have competitors for jobs and prices, I think that there a danger in viewing doing science as a competition. You should do science for the sake of science and not to win anything.


If you show a poster or give a talk on unpublished work, there is always a risk of your ideas being poached. There is also the possible benefit of someone contributing questions/ideas that can enhance your research.

To mitigate the risk, if your research is ready to be shown in a paper/talk, maybe you should be able to post a preprint so that your authorship is established. Your supervisor should be able to clarify what the ethos of your research area is about this.

There is still some risk, though. I know a mathematician who posted very good results on the arxiv. At the same time, he submitted the article to a good journal. The article took about a year to referee, and came with a rejection (not because of anything wrong but because of the high standards of the journal). Meanwhile, during that year, a pair of mathematicians read his preprint, improved on his results, and got this generalization published (acknowledging the original contribution from the arxiv). So this guy ends up with his best paper unpublished and unpublishable. Needless to say that after this experience, he was very wary of preprints. But this is an exception, and most mathematicians post in the arxiv all the time without major issues.

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