Paper writing question


Hi People

I have a question about journal writing to ask. I have some experience of writing papers etc, but can't say i'm an expert. At the moment i'm trying to write a paper on a novel in-vivo imaging probe for a certain neurological disease.

My boss and colaborators want this finished off reasonably soon so they can patent the idea, the study itself is based upon the lead molecule and in-vitro testing of this. The problem is the lead molecule has far too low an affinity to be useful in itself, but is representative of what could be achieved with a few tweaks to the structure.

I think it's a good idea and would probably be of interest to people in the field, trouble is I can't see how it's going to get published because the data shows it is'nt very good. I'm going to emphasize that we have many options available regarding re-design and re-synthesis which we do, and are currently re-designing.

Has anyone else come across a paper that has managed to do this: essentially selling the study on the basis of the idea, and promising improvements to come. I know it seems unlikely but i'm not really sure what approach to take here.

All opinions welcome, Cakeman


I am aware of a small number of papers that present the idea, usually as a method or a technique and as such are usually published in instrumentation type journals.

Are you wanting to both patent and publish the same idea? As I believe you would have a problem getting a (strong) patent for something that you had already published in a journal (as publishing puts the information in the public domain).



Yes, we are trying to patent the same idea, the approach we are taking is to get the patent application done at the same time as releasing the paper, this way you release proof that it is your work, it may even be that patent requires a publication or some sort of proof. Apologies if this was not clear.

You are quite right about releasing information earlier than this into the public domain because this constitutes disclosure, hence i've been deiberately vague with my description.



Hi cakeman,

yes you can publish something even if the outcome is not perfect. Normally just a matter of writing the article in the format as requested by the journal, indicating strengths and weaknesses. Stress to the editor that this is a novel approach with promising prospects.

Like Laney, I would be more worried about the patent. Once the method is in the public domain, common sense would suggest that you are no longer the owner, hence that you cannot patent it? Not sure how you could bypass the matter if a publication is required. Perhaps asking legal advice first?

Kind regards,



As Rick says check the legal position regarding publications and patents. We were looking at patenting an idea a while back, and were told by the University commercialization team that a journal article on the subject would most likely prevent a patent being obtained, but you could publish once you had a patent in place. I'd definately check with the appropriate people before submitting a paper.

As for the paper itself, I have seen a few papers that use not great data to illustrate a new idea, you generally just need to write the paper in such a way that the idea itself is the theme and that the results shown are just one example of it, also suggesting the potential of the idea/method will strengthen a case, but you will need to be careful to submit to an appropriate journal.


Hi folks

Rick, Laney thanks for your input, i'm not really worrying too much about the patent side as I know my boss has it covered, he has been recieving regular advice from a commercialisation team that we have attached to the institution and are very used to handling this stuff, I think maybe the patent goes on just before the publication, so we have that aspect covered, but i personally am not really involved.

I think they have already approved our idea and run a patent search to ensure anything like it is'nt already out there, i'm just told i need to produce this paper. Still not got much hope for the article doing anything great, although your advice to emphasize the novel finding etc seems sound enough.