Friday, August 06, 2004

When to Announce?

Suppose you have some partial solutions of a popular problem. At what point do you announce your results? If you announce your partial results you run the risk of someone else taking your ideas and solving the full problem and you won't get as much credit as you deserve. If you wait and try to extend the work yourself someone else might get the same results you already have and you'll lose or at best have to share the authorship.

If you are completely altruistic you should announce your progress as this will best advance science quickly. But as in the end you need to worry about your own publication record, particularly for a young researcher, the answer isn't so clear. Of course it depends on many factors including your belief that you or others could extend the work as well as when the next conference deadline occurs.

Oddly enough before the internet (in the eighties) such decisions were easier. You could write up a technical report to establish your result and you would have months before your work spread throughout the community. This gives you plenty of time to try and extend the work. The quick spread of information not only improves collaborative work as it does, but forces us to make decisions that we could avoid in the past.


  1. Lance, is there something you would like to announce? :-)

  2. However, the special theory of resultativity (what a cool name !) does not take into account the fact that after some point, it is the publication that gets recognized, rather than the initial announcement. So if I announce a result, and in the time it takes to get submitted, someone else improves it and submits it, then the conference committee (even if they are aware of my announcement), will have to view the improvement as "independent work" and might force a merge.

    In other words, it is the "observation" at the conference that fixes the timestamp. Maybe we need a quantum theory of resultativity....