# Publishing as a citizen scientist

bugs007
I would like some advice please. If a citizen scientist was to make a genuine ground breaking discovery based on sound scientific principles how does one proceed cautiously to publication and retain credit for their discovery without their idea being stolen ? I understand that such thing as preprint is available but not easy accessible unless you are affiliated somehow. I also understand that I must publish as an article in a recognised journal subject to peer review. Any and all advice on how to best proceed is much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

DrClaude
Mentor
You can have a look at https://www.physicsforums.com/insights/guide-publishing-peer-reviewed-journals/

But the probability that a "citizen scientist" has made "a genuine ground breaking discovery" is so incredibly low that you should be prepared to have the work rejected.

Also, the fear of having one's scientific ideas stolen is not very rational. Yes, historically, I can't say it never happened, but it is extremely rare. Many people discovering the same thing on their own is much more common. More effort should be put in making sure that one's ideas are sound than in protecting these ideas.

Cryo, Dale, Evo and 3 others
So how many genuine ground breaking discoveries based on sound scientific principles have been made by citizen scientists in the last, say 100 years?

I cannot think of a single example.

Before the 20th century, when there were 'easy' discoveries to be made, this was possible. Now, you very rarely see individual professional scientists making 'ground breaking discoveries', rather you see marginal contributions coming from very hard work by well funded teams of scientists. There is no science today that does not require $millions or$billions of funding to move forward

weirdoguy
fresh_42
Mentor
So how many genuine ground breaking discoveries based on sound scientific principles have been made by citizen scientists in the last, say 100 years?
https://arxiv.org/abs/1804.02385

O.k. Aubrey de Grey is a real scientist (biology), but not a mathematician. Maybe the improvement of a lower bound cannot be regarded as breakthrough, but to improve lower bounds is definitely one of the harder mathematical problems.

Of course, the quintessence of your statement is true: it is extremely unlikely for a non specialist to achieve major results, esp. in physics, where research teams often consist of dozens of scientists and extreme powerful computer capacities are necessary to deal with data. There is a significant difference between mathematics and physics: a single person can achieve mathematical results but less likely physical. In any case the major problem is to figure out what is new and what is not, and in physics, what has already been dismissed and what not.

Klystron, Evo and BWV
bugs007
You can have a look at https://www.physicsforums.com/insights/guide-publishing-peer-reviewed-journals/

But the probability that a "citizen scientist" has made "a genuine ground breaking discovery" is so incredibly low that you should be prepared to have the work rejected.

Also, the fear of having one's scientific ideas stolen is not very rational. Yes, historically, I can't say it never happened, but it is extremely rare. Many people discovering the same thing on their own is much more common. More effort should be put in making sure that one's ideas are sound than in protecting these ideas.
Many thanks for the link. Agreed the chances are low but not impossible.

bugs007
Just to help clarify by example say a citizen scientist figured out why we see the results we do in Young's double-slit experiment and used sound scientific principles to provide an explanation. So the question is more of a citizen scientist finding a solution to a problem that science cannot currently explain.

ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
I would like some advice please. If a citizen scientist was to make a genuine ground breaking discovery based on sound scientific principles how does one proceed cautiously to publication and retain credit for their discovery without their idea being stolen ? I understand that such thing as preprint is available but not easy accessible unless you are affiliated somehow. I also understand that I must publish as an article in a recognised journal subject to peer review. Any and all advice on how to best proceed is much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

First things first. How would that "citizen scientist" even know that he/she has made a "genuine, ground-breaking discovery", and that is was based on "sound, scientific principles"?

Let's not put the cart before the horse here.

Zz.

Dale and russ_watters
bugs007
First things first. How would that "citizen scientist" even know that he/she has made a "genuine, ground-breaking discovery", and that is was based on "sound, scientific principles"?

Let's not put the cart before the horse here.

Zz.
By many years of privately studying the subjects required to help understand it. There are many extremely intelligent people who are not scientists but who understand things just as well if not better and can see things from a different perspective.

ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
By many years of privately studying the subjects required to help understand it. There are many extremely intelligent people who are not scientists but who understand things just as well if not better and can see things from a different perspective.

This is your own self-evaluation of your knowledge and skills. No field of study, be it in science or not, uses such evaluation. You think you are good. That isn't enough to get you a job in anything. So why should we simply take your word for it? Would you take MY word that you aren't that good?

So my question still stands. How do you know?

Zz.

russ_watters
Mentor
Agreed the chances are low but not impossible.
Giving the benefit of the doubt and assuming you have found something, what now?

One beautiful thing about the internet is anyone can instantly publish anything and if proper identifying information is provided, it is instant and absolute proof of the origin and timing of the idea. You could publish it on facebook or Youtube to secure credit.

Your real issue is recognition. If you publish on facebook or youtube, no one important will notice or care. You need the scientific community to engage the idea.

Because the chances are low you found something and because you lack formal education and affiliation, it is going to be hard to get that attention. Before going after it, though, please do all you can to make sure your ducks are lined up. Read journals and textbooks, take/audit courses on the subject, maybe hire a physicist (under NDA) to review the idea and maybe even help polish the paper.

The worst thing that can happen is that you have a genuinely good idea but present it badly and get ignored.

BillTre, Klystron and berkeman
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
.....maybe hire a physicist (under NDA) to review the idea .....

This is what many responsible "citizen scientist" and "citizen engineers" and "citizen inventors" do! You think you found something, be it new, interesting, revolutionary, etc.... The first thing you need to do is present it in as clear and complete state as possible, and then find someone knowledgeable, with credentials and expertise, and have him/her evaluate your work! In other words, you need to have someone else, and someone independent to verify that what you found was the next best thing since sliced bread! You simply cannot just rely on your own intuition and knowledge because you do not have not only the expertise, but you also do not know what is the state of knowledge of that field! And as Feynman has stated, you are the easiest one to fool about your own work.

This is something the OP never indicated. The delusion that one has ample knowledge and expertise to evaluate the validity of one's work, even as an admitted amateur, is often puzzling. And as Warren Siegel has found out many times, this is one of the symptoms of a quack.

Zz.

russ_watters
bugs007
This is your own self-evaluation of your knowledge and skills. No field of study, be it in science or not, uses such evaluation. You think you are good. That isn't enough to get you a job in anything. So why should we simply take your word for it? Would you take MY word that you aren't that good?

So my question still stands. How do you know?

Zz.
How "good" one is at anything is comes down to how well they can analyze and interpret something. I admit I am not formally educated in quantum physics and only have a good year 10 education but I do understand very well the nature of quantum physics and all it's associated weirdness and have studied this for many years. I had this concept I speak of 30 years ago but could not fully resolve it due to my lack of education. Once the Internet came along I studied hard to fully understand the state of where physics was at and got to know more about the fundamentals of QM especially wave/particle duality. I was more interested in gravity in my studies but this double-slit experiment absolutely fascinated me. I knew there had to be an answer.

ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
How "good" one is at anything is comes down to how well they can analyze and interpret something. I admit I am not formally educated in quantum physics and only have a good year 10 education but I do understand very well the nature of quantum physics and all it's associated weirdness and have studied this for many years. I had this concept I speak of 30 years ago but could not fully resolve it due to my lack of education. Once the Internet came along I studied hard to fully understand the state of where physics was at and got to know more about the fundamentals of QM especially wave/particle duality. I was more interested in gravity in my studies but this double-slit experiment absolutely fascinated me. I knew there had to be an answer.

Once again, you have not addressed my question. All you have told me is how "good" you are. You have not given ANY proof that you have made a "genuine, ground-breaking discovery", and that is was based on "sound, scientific principles".

Treat this as a scientific question. How would you address this as a "citizen scientist"? We are several posts in, and you are still stuck at First Base to show this.

Zz.

russ_watters
Mentor
This is what many responsible "citizen scientist" and "citizen engineers" and "citizen inventors" do!
It never ceases to amaze me how unwilling the people we see on PF who say they believe they have discovered something are to put any real money or effort into their idea (even after years or decades!). This tells me they don't really believe in it (or maybe their belief is not stronger than their fear). If you watch a TV show like "Shark Tank", you'll see the majority of the people who are on the show go all in on their idea, investing enormous amounts of time and money into it before it gets to the point where it is ready to be presented to billionaire investors. A patent application alone probably costs upwards of $10,000. Then there's prototyping and if it goes well, setting up manufacturing and distribution. People with even small, simple ideas often spend a$100,000 or more developing an idea to get it far enough that it is ready to sell - and therefore invest in.

For someone who has a scientific idea, here's all it takes to get a quick review: $600 and an afternoon. Find a random physicist at a nearby university and offer him/er$150 an hour to spend the afternoon with you at a coffee shop to read your paper, review and discuss.

Don't trust the answer you got? Go get another opinion.

I'm a mechanical engineer, not a physicist, but if someone local made me that offer to review their perpetual motion machine idea, I'd do it. I bet you can find a physicist who would too.

@bugs007, you say you've put 30 years into this idea. I urge you to take just a little bit of time and money and find out if your idea does or doesn't have merit. The worst case outcome from that is just that if you find the idea doesn't have merit you save yourself any further waste of time. So even that would be a win.

StoneTemplePython, Klystron and Evo
fresh_42
Mentor
I had this concept I speak of 30 years ago but could not fully resolve it due to my lack of education...
So 35-30 leaves us with 5 years to study calculus (real, complex, multivariate) and functional analysis to at least be able to read a textbook on quantum physics. I do not say this is impossible, but rather unlikely, as there are still open all physical studies.
... Once the Internet came along I studied hard to fully understand the state of where physics was at ...
Internet or not. It's practically impossible to keep track on all publications in a single field, let alone more than one, and the fact that not everything is published (for free) on the internet.
... and got to know more about the fundamentals of QM especially wave/particle duality.
Easy: there is none.

Klystron
bugs007
To clarify further I am talking about a very simple hypothesis which has the results of the double-slit experiment as proof. This is far from some crackpot theory as I would not chase publication if I remotely thought it as such. This also has some extremely far reaching consequences in QM but it is what it is. And the solution to the double-slit experiment also solves the 200 plus years long riddle of what wave/particle duality really is. This truly is hard to ignore and I need the most professional advice possible for this. I shall also add this solution has been sitting under everyone's nose.

ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
To clarify further I am talking about a very simple hypothesis which has the results of the double-slit experiment as proof. This is far from some crackpot theory as I would not chase publication if I remotely thought it as such. This also has some extremely far reaching consequences in QM but it is what it is. And the solution to the double-slit experiment also solves the 200 plus years long riddle of what wave/particle duality really is. This truly is hard to ignore and I need the most professional advice possible for this. I shall also add this solution has been sitting under everyone's nose.

We ONLY have your word on this. This is neither sufficient nor convincing. Just to burst your bubble even more, we get this type of claim rather often on this forum. You are neither unique nor special.

Thus, to go back to the FIRST question, you are not able to established clearly that you have made such discovery based on sound scientific method.

The other parts of trying to get it published now becomes moot.

Zz.

PeroK
Homework Helper
Gold Member
2020 Award
To clarify further I am talking about a very simple hypothesis which has the results of the double-slit experiment as proof. This is far from some crackpot theory as I would not chase publication if I remotely thought it as such. This also has some extremely far reaching consequences in QM but it is what it is. And the solution to the double-slit experiment also solves the 200 plus years long riddle of what wave/particle duality really is. This truly is hard to ignore and I need the most professional advice possible for this. I shall also add this solution has been sitting under everyone's nose.

What makes you think that the double-slit experiment is unexplained by QM?

Dale and Klystron
Evo
Mentor
To clarify further I am talking about a very simple hypothesis which has the results of the double-slit experiment as proof. This is far from some crackpot theory as I would not chase publication if I remotely thought it as such. This also has some extremely far reaching consequences in QM but it is what it is. And the solution to the double-slit experiment also solves the 200 plus years long riddle of what wave/particle duality really is. This truly is hard to ignore and I need the most professional advice possible for this. I shall also add this solution has been sitting under everyone's nose.
Something to consider as a layman is all of the research that you do not have access to, all of the discussions, tests and theories that have been discarded because they have already been found wrong. Your hypothesis could have been discarded long ago, never got published, so you aren't aware that it was already thought of.

But, if you truly think you have found something, publish it online, perhaps seek out someone at a local university to speak with after you've posted it. Take Russ's recommendations, and good luck to you.

Edit: oops, I see Russ added to his post with the same thought in my second paragraph.

Last edited:
russ_watters
bugs007
So 35-30 leaves us with 5 years to study calculus (real, complex, multivariate) and functional analysis to at least be able to read a textbook on quantum physics. I do not say this is impossible, but rather unlikely, as there are still open all physical studies.Internet or not. It's practically impossible to keep track on all publications in a single field, let alone more than one, and the fact that not everything is published (for free) on the internet.Easy: there is none.
You do not need to know calculus and only need basic math in this solution. I admit not knowing most math is, I do know some algebra what I recall from year 10 and barely recall some trigonometry as I had no ambition in this field then.

This solution will actually be described as an extension of an existing very well accepted theory. One that Einstein seriously overlooked. So I wish to treat this with a lot of respect especially for those whose discoveries this relies on and in the professional manner that it deserves.

bugs007
What makes you think that the double-slit experiment is unexplained by QM?
Because wave/particle duality is not explained by QM

bugs007
Something to consider as a layman is all of the research that you do not have access to, all of the discussions, tests and theories that have been discarded because they have already been found wrong. Your hypothesis could have been discarded long ago, never got published, so you aren't aware that it was already thought of.

But, if you truly think you have found something, publish it online, perhaps seek out someone at a local university to speak with after you've posted it. Take Russ's recommendations, and good luck to you.
This solution is so damn simple it is quite frankly laughable and in my opinion they should have figured this out easily. With the double slit experiment results as a definitive proof here this will be extremely hard to refute. As far as I know double slit wave function collapse during observation has not been explained and if so not to anyone's satisfaction.

russ_watters
Mentor
Because wave/particle duality is not explained by QM
Yeah, so per @fresh_42's point, there is no such thing as "wave particle duality" anymore in physics except as a colloquialism to point out that some behaviors are wavelike and some particle-like. This was fully resolved and incorporated into QM 75 years ago.

One caution here: "Wave-particle duality" as a scientific concept was discarded seventy-five years ago, when Dirac and others came up with the basics of modern quantum mechanics.

It is true that all quantum things will display wave-like behavior in some measurements and particle-like behavior in others, but that doesn't mean that they are both waves and particles. They are neither. A sheep has four legs like a table and a sheep is fuzzy like a pillow, but you wouldn't try to understand the behavior of sheep in terms of "table-pillow duality" - so don't think in terms of "wave-particle duality" when it comes to quantum objects.

Dale, Klystron, Evo and 1 other person
PeroK
Homework Helper
Gold Member
2020 Award
Because wave/particle duality is not explained by QM

Yes it is. Wave-particle duality is explained by QM. If you have been reading popular science books or youtube videos then you may get the strong impression that the riddle of wave-particle duality is alive and kicking. But, as far as the professional science of QM is concerned, wave-particle duality was explained in the 1930's by "modern" QM. And you have the whole development of QED and QFT since then.

Dale, Klystron, Evo and 1 other person
You do not need to know calculus and only need basic math in this solution. I admit not knowing most math is, I do know some algebra what I recall from year 10 and barely recall some trigonometry as I had no ambition in this field then.

A little calculus would be useful to understand that you are at a point in the graph below where the first derivative is zero (and it ain't the second one)

This forum is a very good place to minimize this function BTW

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