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Professional physicists often jealously guard their good ideas, since they are afraid that competing researchers might steal them and publish first. As a junior scientist, I am sometimes appalled by what lengths some colleagues go to to avoid collaboration, which is why I'm such an ardent supporter of websites such as this one that promote open and unreserved discussion of ideas.

However, what should a hypothetical Physics user, who is also a researcher, do if a discussion on Physics leads to that spark of inspiration which ultimately results in a publication? Pride is easily wounded (especially other people's ;-) and we wouldn't want people withdrawing from discussions because they think their ideas are too good! Our hypothetical researcher would presumably like to give credit where credit is due.

Will we see a new wave of papers in Physical Review Letters that say in the Acknowledgements section at the end:

The authors thank the community of physics.stackexchange.com for fruitful discussions.

How would people like to go about this?

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The license of everything here is clear: http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/06/attribution-required/
Whatever you say, you keep the law of being attributed the author (profile has a place for your name and e-mail, so the real identity of an user can be usually justified when needed), but you allow others to use it as they wish.

Possibly the advances of open science will someday tend to situation you described, but yet many good ideas will be inevitably hidden. Still, this shouldn't drive this place totally useless (-;

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  • $\begingroup$ +1, however the attribution including a link to the author is a requirement when reproducing the question/answer, a citation should be fine with only the author name and a link to the post. Also note that (after private beta) users can post stuff without logging in and if they delete their cookies and HTML5-storage (and whatnot...) the author will be anonymous. $\endgroup$ – Tobias Kienzler Nov 5 '10 at 6:45
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Since each post (both questions and answers) provide a link, you can quote what helped you for example as

mbq, http://meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/35

Yes, user names may sound strange compared to real names we are used to, but that's the attribution required by the license (although I'm not certain how to link to the user profile as well without overcrowding).

Please note I cheated with the link: For questions, a shorturl à la http://site.com/q/123/456 is the official link, where you can remove the last number if you need more space and don't need it to be referral link. For answers, you get something like http://meta.physics.stackexchange.com/questions/34/how-should-we-assign-credit-for-ideas/35#35. Just pick the number at the end which identifies the answers post number and use the site.com/q/35 shorturl. This is however not officially supported and might break one day...

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Given all the protections, there is still nothing to prevent any user from using an idea or solution method obtained from this or any other forum, in their own work without attribution.

A site like this is amazing and will lead to awesome new collaborations. However, as with all powerful tools, I guess a cautionary approach to using this site is probably prudent, especially for newbies - such as yours truly :-D

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