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Protecting new work for Publication

  1. Sep 3, 2008 #1
    I am wondering about the process of protecting one's intellectual work before and during publication. I am in the process of preparing a series of papers that contain a combination of old and new ideas to the field of study they are in. I'm a professional musician also, familiar with the world of copyrights, but I'm aware that I cannot copyright an idea or theory. I simply want to be able to show evidence of the time period during which I developed this work so that if it becomes used in the future I will be credited.

    this is set of papers in theoretical physics.
    what do people usually do?

    thank you for your help!
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 3, 2008 #2


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  4. Sep 3, 2008 #3


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    arXiv is the best place, but nowadays new posters have to be endorsed by old posters, so it doesn't work for everyone. You can also publish your work on a personal website. Publishing just means "publicly available". At the least you should keep all your work, including intermediate steps and errors, and date them. This way you can be credited by future historians long after you are dead. If you would like to get credited while you are alive, you can try what this guy did:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Gould.
  5. Sep 3, 2008 #4


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    Document, document, document! Dated, well-organized notebooks or journals that track your progress will help provide such evidence should a time-line become important. However, in the world of science, ideas are up for grabs until published. There's nothing more frustrating than being "scooped" by someone who had the same idea and beat you to publication.

    The other advice I can give is to learn about the reputations of people in your field. Some people have wonderful reputations for being good collaborators...you can bounce ideas off them and get advice and they won't steal your ideas but rather help with them (if the help is substantial enough, of course, you may need to include them as a coauthor). Others have a bad reputation for stealing ideas and work in a large enough group that they always win the race to the finish line...avoid them!

    Your published works WILL be copyrighted, but not by yourself. Unless physics is very different from biology, publishers usually require transfer of copyright at the time of publication.
  6. Sep 3, 2008 #5


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    If you believe that your work is truely original and somehow contributes to the advancement of knowledged in a particular field, then find a journal and submit the articles. Most journals will publish articles with the date of submission. Before you submit however, it's really just a free-for-all.
  7. Sep 3, 2008 #6
    Please, don't take what I'm about to say to be designed to be personally offensive. However, based on all too personal experience of, ahem, interesting characters who have had the same question as you, if you're worried about people "stealing" your desperately important "research," you're almost certainly a crank. This is almost certainly true (i.e., within six-sigma) if you (a) have never held a professional position at a university or (b) actually have no formal training in physics whatsoever. In particular, such people would seem to be dangerously close to satisfying criteria 12 on the Crackpot index.

    Let me put it another way: in (just over) a decade as a professional physicist, the only people whom I have seen express an interest in preventing unscrupulous, unnamed "others" from stealing their work are the sort of people who would make one feel very, very uncomfortable were one to find oneself sat next to them on public transport.

    EDIT: Just as a possibly helpful -- if brutally honest -- addendum, let me point out that it's worth asking yourself the following question: is it reasonable to expect that someone who evidently is having a hard time comprehending basic special relativity will currently be capable of producing work of interest to professional physicists, and hence of sufficient quality to be worth publishing?
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2008
  8. Sep 4, 2008 #7
    thank you all for your help.
    Shoehorn, I think you have the wrong guy. I'm not sure why you assume I'm having trouble understanding basic special relativity. I do think relativity is counterintuitive, and not quite fully understood by anybody. So I do not pretend to know more than I do.

    I have a BA in physics from UC Berkeley, and have taught relativity and the entire breath of high school and college level physics many, many times in a professional setting, for about nine years.

    anyway, your brutal honesty does not bother me. Thank you for the feedback! I know there are a lot of people who think they know more about physics than they do!
  9. Sep 4, 2008 #8

    Andy Resnick

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    People usually submit the paper to a Journal and then "hit the road"- give talks on the subject at conferences and Departments to get their idea out there. This is also how people know it's your idea and know to cite your work.
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