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Other Publish or post?

  1. Dec 8, 2017 #1
    Lets say I have a new Idea and maybe it has scientific value maybe not, that's not the topic now. I want to put this idea out there and I've already talked myself into trying to publish rather than posting. Maybe I would post, it depends on how it gets rejected. I'm sure not many like me try to publish but do any succeed?

    I'm not in school and I already have a long career in engineering so a paper won't do anything for my career or academic standing. Its just a way to get credit for an idea and not toss it to the public domain, to say it's my Idea first and have proof so to speak.

    However not being in academia, I'm not sure how to list my affiliations at the top of such a paper.
    I mean; to list whom I work for, they don't even know about the subject. To list my University, I graduated 20+ years ago (BSEE) and I'm not enrolled. To list my city and state, that seems kind of flat. I'm afraid a single author at the top of a scientific paper with no affiliations might not get much recognition.

    Suppose I wouldn't mind some help; either with general concerns or with the core of the theory itself and even getting in deep with some math. How would I find a qualified person without disclosing my idea to too broadly and how would I connect with them? How would I know my idea is safe with that person?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 8, 2017 #2
    Remember to read the forum Guidelines. Physics Forums is not meant as an alternative venue for the discussion and review of personal theories.
    Listing your employer is recommended.
    There are consulting organizations for such things but I don't know very much about them. Try googling a few and see if one matches the subject of your idea.
    This is going to be a requirement for any scientific or engineering related paper.
  4. Dec 9, 2017 #3

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    Are you following the scientific literature in this field? If not, how do you know your idea is new? Also, if not, you are effectively saying "I want to publish, so you can listen to what I have to say, but I have no interest in hearing what you have to say". Many find that arrogant and rude.

    In any event, step one is to start reading the relevant scientific literature.
  5. Dec 9, 2017 #4
    But if the work has nothing to do with your employer, then I would not recommend it. Suppose, e.g., you're a cashier at Walmart and want to publish a paper on string theory; you wouldn't want to list Walmart, would you? One option is to form your own business entity, e.g. "Haklesup, LLC", and list that as your affiliation. But check first with your current employer whether there are any restrictions on side businesses and check out potential intellectual property issues. This route will likely require the services of an attorney.
  6. Dec 9, 2017 #5
    I would think that a cashier at Walmart shouldn't be trying to publish material on string theory.
  7. Dec 10, 2017 #6
    I get the point about Walmart. My concerns echo these as well. I'm of course reviewing literature for the citations and searching for any sign of this idea. Ideally I can find someone in the field willing to discuss the topic before I move ahead. I don't really want the first reader to be a journal editor.
  8. Dec 10, 2017 #7


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    From the literature search you should have a nice list of people you can send a mail to.
    If your idea is worth publishing then you put a lot of effort in, it is nothing others would (or could) simply steal. Or, expressed differently: If someone can easily steal it, it is not worth a publication.
  9. Dec 10, 2017 #8
    That was obviously intended to be a facetious example. But the point remains the same. How about a patent examiner writing about Brownian motion? How about an actress writing about frequency hopping? How about a network engineer writing about chemomechanical polishing? People do have technical expertise outside the work they do for their current employer. Work that is not affiliated with the current employer should not list the current employer (unless there is some legal obligation).
  10. Dec 10, 2017 #9


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    There are always simple and boring things like patent protection , design registration and copyright that you could use .

    Anyway I don't really understand the need to publish an idea in order to find out whether it has any merit . If it was my idea I would either know or I would quickly find out through my own very private investigations .
  11. Dec 10, 2017 #10
    Most professional Physicists I know (and scientists in other fields also) have had the experience of being approached by amateur scientists who think they are capable of a major breakthrough such as the invention of a perpetual motion machine or alternatives to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Consequently, your greatest challenging in approaching professionals with your ideas will be not coming off as a crank.

    Professional scientists who are commonly approached by members of the general public with various ideas and tend to form judgments quickly that the ideas presented are not valuable or worth their time. Colleagues (with scientific credentials) and students (especially science majors at their institutions) are usually granted a bit more time and attention as an opportunity to demonstrate that their ideas are interesting or worthy of consideration, but members of the general public are fighting an uphill battle.

    The burden is squarely on the amateur to catch the attention of the pro and show that an idea is worth the professional’s time. Most cranks do not bother with a literature search or detailed background investigation, but just write down their ideas. Game over.

    The amateur needs to write a 1-3 paragraph description of the idea with citations showing a thorough background making the case that the research idea is 1) interesting 2) relevant 3) tractable 4) novel (not already done) 5) and placing the idea in the context of similar works and similar ideas. The citations should be to the peer-reviewed scholarly literature rather than popular books, movies, blogs, or web sites. I recommend the Google Scholar search engine rather than Google or another general purpose search facility. The way most amateur descriptions are written when they reach professional eyes (journal submissions, email, or postings) are depending on the professional to do the background work for the amateur, which likely requires many hours of scholarly searching and carefully reading a bunch of papers which may or may not be relevant. The amateur needs to provide the citations, and they better be understood and used properly. Misunderstand or exaggerate findings in the references: game over.

    Several of my earlier articles may be useful:


    While this one most directly addresses undergraduate research, it also applies to amateur research. Most topics approached by enthusiastic amateurs are not in one of the niches we have found to work very well for non-professionals. That does not mean they are impossible, only that they are harder and that one will have a tougher time convincing anyone that the amateur is capable of real progress.


    The above article tells some of my story of cases where I have done productive science from love and general interest (as an amateur) rather than for money. It shows what is possible.


    The above article describes the basic process by which we have mentored students into productive research. The basics will be the same for amateurs as for students.


    An enthusiastic amateur should also read the above article on Michael Faraday, the most famous example of an untrained amateur who made real progress in science. For every Michael Faraday, there are a million wannabees. What was different about Faraday who succeeded from the million wannabees who fail?


    In my successful mentoring of amateur research, I tend to spend about 25% (on average) of the time the amateur is spending doing background, checking results, reviewing the amateur’s work, etc. If an amateur spends 1000 hours on a project, that means I’ve spent around 250 hours. That’s more than most professionals, but even if a pro only spends 10% of the amateur’s effort (about the minimum required for useful feedback over the course of a project), the amateur is still asking for a pro to give the project a lot of their time for free. The burden is on the amateur. The first sentence needs to convince them to read the whole paragraph. The citations in the first paragraph better support the claims. The first paragraph needs to convince the pro to keep reading, and the amateur loses an opportunity for feedback as soon as the pro loses interest.
  12. Dec 10, 2017 #11


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    His paper on Brownian motion used results from his PhD thesis which he had finished two weeks earlier. :smile:

  13. Dec 10, 2017 #12
    My original point still holds. You don't always simply list your current employer. In modern practice, this situation is handled via, e.g., Author's Name*, Current Employer, *Work done while at ABC University; or, Author's Name*, ABC University (at which the work was done), *Current Employer.

    But you still have the issue in which the work is done as a sideline totally unrelated to any employer. This applies not only to amateur scientists and engineers, but also to professional scientists and engineers who have switched fields entirely, which has become common. E.g., APS News has frequent columns on alternative careers for physicists. One highlighted a theoretical physicist who did his dissertation in chaos theory and is now working in the field of financial security (credit card fraud prevention). If he were to continue to work (on his own) in chaos theory beyond what he did for his PhD work, the new work would not be properly affiliated with either his previous university or his current employer (barring any work agreement, and assuming his new work in theoretical physics is not tied to his current financial security work). That's the only point I'm trying to make.
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2017
  14. Dec 10, 2017 #13


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    Sure, I would expect that Einstein's Brownian motion paper be published under one of these two bylines (or something similar) in current practice.

    Academic and publishing conventions were different 100+ years ago. I don't know about the Brownian motion paper, but I do know that Einstein's first relativity paper, finished about the same time, simply gave "A. Einstein" as the author. Academia was a lot smaller back then, most physicists probably knew each other at least by reputation, and a journal editor would probably have checked up on a newcomer by way of his university or whoever he was working with. Even in those days, I don't think many amateurs burst onto the scene completely "out of the blue."
  15. Dec 10, 2017 #14


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    Did you do this work while you were employed? Even if you did it on your own time, your employment agreement may require that you disclose it to your employer and ask for written permission to pursue it on your own. That is the agreement that I am bound by at my current employer (for many years). Basically they have the "right of first refusal" to use/pursue the idea. In my case, I could get in a lot of trouble if I tried to ignore that legal obligation that I am bound by.

    Also, is this work in your field of EE/engineering? Or is it more in Physics (not your main education)? Is it very technical, or of general interest to lots of folks? If you can get the release from your employer to pursue it on your own, and it's of general interest, is it something that you could write an article about for EE Times or ECN or Popular Mechanics or HowStuffWorks, etc?
    As mentioned already, find a consultant in the field and pay him/her for a few hours of consulting. Have them sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) up front before they are shown your work. That is a pretty good way to proceed, and it is a check on what you think the worth of the idea is. It will probably cost about 8 hours of work at $150/hour or so to get a good initial opinion from the consultant, I would think. Are you willing to invest that amount?
  16. Dec 11, 2017 #15
    Tank you, especially Dr Courtney for your thought out response. I'll take a look at these links for sure.

    My goal is not fame or fortune or even validation, only to get the idea in front of the right eyes so it can be disproved or propagated (maybe that is a kind of validation). I don't think just posting will necessarily do that, sometimes it takes a long time for new ideas to become accepted and a post has a short lifetime in most instances and the right eyes might not be in a chosen forum. Though I could get some rapid feedback and someday I may do just that. Hopefully if and when I get that far, an editor at a given journal will have a solid format for the authors by line.

    There are fields where amateurs are more common like astronomy but not as much in pure Physics

    BTW, I have written for EE times but it was a while ago, I have a few things in other trade journals but they have essentially no peer review, they are just trying to fill their pages so the ads don't look so lonely. Who knows, maybe PM is stupid enough to publish something nobody ever heard of, it could make for some cool graphics. I had considered framing this as a SciFi story but that seems like even more work and even less likely to get seen, I'm no Azimov with his robots.

    Right now the first half of the paper is short and concise and ties in reasonably convincingly to other work, the later part which I will withhold indefinitely is far more hypothetical and pointless if the first part is not accepted. I need to find more citations though to make a case. I get that these are very important, without it, the work is hearsay so to speak.
  17. Dec 11, 2017 #16


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  18. Dec 11, 2017 #17


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