25 January 2020

What’s worth stealing? Academic edition

I heard someone ask this recently at a conference, “What if someone steals your ideas?”

I have good news:

Nobody wants to steal your ideas.

Especially in academia. As I’ve said before, ideas a cheap. Not worthless, but not worth much. Once you have been in academia a while, there are so many ideas floating around that you will quickly realize the list of ideas you want to put into action vastly exceeds the ones that you can put into action.

I think this is why concern about “stealing ideas” surfaces with early career individuals or novices. They are still at the point where they don’t know the map of the territory. They don’t know what has or has not been done, so they don’t have a clear idea of where the fertile ground for ideas lies or what is practical. It’s sort of like kids who think “Everything has been invented already.”

Stealing ideas isn’t worth it.

When you look at what problems around intellectual property in academia, it’s usually about someone stealing completed work.

Stealing data, plagiarism, duplicate publication, or insisting you be added as an author to a paper you did not contribute to – all of those stealing completed work. That’s what you need to worry about and protect. Not your ideas.

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Ideas are cheap

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