Publishing also holds some risks for an author. Competitors might use results presented in a paper to advance their own research and “scoop” the original author in future publications. The careers of young scientists might be particularly vulnerable to having prospective research “picked off” by others. (However, if a researcher chooses not to publish his or her results or chooses to delay publication, someone else might publish the same findings first and receive the credit.) Another risk associated with publishing is that other researchers will use information presented in a paper to invalidate or question the author’s own findings, and publish conflicting results.
Are the benefits and risks of publishing any different for companies whose investigators publish than those for academic scientists? It was pointed out at the workshop that companies whose scientists publish their findings typically receive the intellectual credit, recognition, and prestige that come with such disclosure to the entire scientific community. Such nonfinancial benefits can translate into increased publicity and increased perceived value of a company to potential investors and business partners. They also strengthen the scientific reputation of companies in the eyes of potential collaborators. By encouraging others to use their methods and materials, companies can develop a net of researchers who are extolling and extending the value of the technology that the company has published. Moreover, companies that encourage their investigators to publish are attractive to employees or potential employees who wish to build and maintain their publication record, either in anticipation of someday returning to academe, as a vehicle for facilitating their participation in and recognition by their peer scientific community, or in buttressing their own career prospects within the company.
For a for-profit research entity, publication also carries financial risks. By revealing proprietary data or other trade secrets, publishing may harm a company’s competitiveness in the marketplace and thus endanger the return to investors. A competitor might use information disclosed in a scientific paper to develop a competing product or otherwise gain commercial advantage or to discredit the product claims of the company making the disclosure.