Why do some professors arrange meetings to give updates about their ongoing work? The updates are certainly exciting, especially for the other people who have been in the lab for awhile and was involved in the work in some small way. But these meetings are also open to visitors, and visiting professors and post docs come too. Isn't there a fear of outsiders (or even insiders) scooping the ideas and beating them to publication? Although I highly doubt that, but I'm curious to know.

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    IMHO, the potential of attracting new collaborations usually outweighs the remote possibility of a scoop. Jun 24, 2017 at 12:51
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    I think far larger than the fear that their work will be scooped, is the fear that their work will be unnoticed.
    – GEdgar
    Jun 24, 2017 at 13:09
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    The very fact that those meetings are public means that it also ensures that there is a record that that professor had that idea at that time, making it harder to scoop that idea without being accused of plagiarism. In practise the arguments by Fabio and brightskies will most of the times play a bigger role. Jun 24, 2017 at 13:12
  • In an ideal world, it doesn't matter who finished the research. If the research is publicly funded, it is owned by the public, any part of it that is done. Also, the goal is to solve a problem/learn an unknown/etc. not to take credit. However, sadly for a temporary postdoc looking to get a more secure job, and with the current publish or perish state of the academia, anyone other than a tenured faculty doing this is taking a big risk. For a tenured professor, of course, this isn't a factor, so they share freely and enjoy it.
    – dan
    Jun 24, 2017 at 16:48
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    @BobJarvis What? That isn't even closely equivalent to what this sort of 'update' is about.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jun 25, 2017 at 0:35

3 Answers 3


The main reason is to attract interest to their current and future work, in terms of both public interest and potential students, scholars, and postdocs who might want to work with their labs. Talks are a good way of accomplishing this. Research isn't meant to be conceived, designed, done, and published in a cloistered off world. Anyone who believes this shouldn't be in research.

If the point of research is to advance/exchange knowledge and to improve life, then it deserves to be made a public, accessible resource. Perhaps even work that hasn't been completed. It's important for researchers to be transparent about their work, rather than trying to hide it, especially when they accumulate so much funding, some of which often comes from public, taxpayer sources (i.e. government funds).

You might think visitors are outsiders, but it's important to keep sight of the fact that they likely helped fund the research in some way, and more importantly, that they're part of the people your research should be trying to help -- and there shouldn't be such distinctions on this account between outsiders and insiders.


Science is a human activity. There is no point in doing research if nobody reads it. Your research becomes relevant once you can engage with people. Bill Thurston has an essay on this, focused on math, but I believe it can be extrapolated to many other areas: https://arxiv.org/pdf/math/9404236.pdf

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    That's a bit off - Perelman didn't engage with anyone except for his mom and a few of his fellow Russian mathematician friends, yet his work couldn't be more relevant today.
    – user75201
    Jun 24, 2017 at 17:33
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    That only applies to major breakthroughs. If you solve something that many people is already looking into it, you will have their immediate attention. But if you want to propose some new theory, for instance, you have to engage with people.
    – Shake Baby
    Jun 24, 2017 at 19:52
  • @user75201 - True that it ain't no general statement, but at the same time, generalizing from Perelman ain't very wise too. He's probably more of an exceptional case, instead of being a general example. However, I see your (and the OP's) point too. :)
    – 299792458
    Jun 24, 2017 at 19:53
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    We almost need a Godwin's law-style disclaimer for Perelman...I feel like his name comes up as an exception in every conversation about the collaborative nature of math/science/academics. Also, for the actual statement in this answer: "There is no point in doing research if nobody reads it" Perelman is no exception: you know his name because people read his work. And he did his work based on reading the work of others.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jun 25, 2017 at 3:35
  • @user75201 Perelman had to explain his proof before people started buying it: math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=77. Similarly, the abc's conjecture might have been proven, but the relevant mathematical subcommunity is still working on understanding the proof. Jul 27, 2017 at 2:13

Professors giving Update , under an okay from institute /university / funding society is to be viewed in a positive way. Too often scientists have been criticised for working in splendid isolation (sometimes meant ivory towers ) and with lesser accountability to public at large. Ongoing research projects of a larger dimension and duation do require an internal review periodically ; this being made more open and transparent should not ideally invite objections. However , this is best left to professors themselves , as an option to share ; making a rule or compulsion carries am apprehension of becoming counterproductive. Prof ME Yeolekar , Mumbai.

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