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I've noticed that while there's no alternative to going through the actual paper in detail, it often helps if I've gone through the presentation based on the paper, which the authors had used while publishing their papers. (Mostly because, the few presentations on TCS papers that I've seen have good geometric examples/illustrations which may have been instrumental in getting the intuition in the first place, but the brevity required by CS conferences mean very few of them make it to the published paper!)

While a few authors graciously maintain the links of such slides on their web-pages, most do not - and I haven't even seen a single CS conference maintaining such documents on their web-page!

So, I've the following questions:

  1. Since I'm ultimately interested in understanding their work (and extending it if possible), is it considered OK to email the authors for the slides (if they still have it)?
  2. If it is, do I have to justify/explain why I want the slides, or would just a polite request do (with minimal explanations on my part to keep the mail short!)?
  3. Would making such a request more than once make the author feel offended, and/or make them think that someone who can't read papers at the highest level without "assistance" isn't exactly someone worth helping out?
  4. If there are 2 authors listed, without any implications about who is the corresponding author, should I mail both of them at the same time (which may lead to both of thinking the other would be responding), or separately (which may lead to duplication of efforts!)?

I'm not sure what to tag this query with - feel free to re-tag/add more tags as you see fit!

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I've had requests by email (or in person, after my presentation) for copies of my slides and even the source code of the tools used, etc. Never was I offended. The reason I didn't put the stuff online in the first place is because it's not clear how many people will want access (is it worth always putting online?). Some workshops provide digital copies of presentations as part of their proceedings or web site. –  Fuhrmanator Feb 25 '13 at 16:40
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3 Answers 3

  1. It's never a problem to ask. In particular if you are interested in extending their work, they should be interested in providing you with more information. Perhaps the extension will happen in collaboration with them, but at the very least you're going to cite their paper. In my experience, views on sharing slides vary, but the objections I've heard related to unpublished material; I understand that in your situation, the material is already published.

  2. I would explain why. It's polite to do so. But do keep the mail short. You could write that if they're interested, you can provide more details on your ideas; like that, you don't swamp them with unrequired information, yet you're open from your side in stating your ideas. Such an offer shows that you trust them, and as they need some trust in you if they share their slides, that is probably a good idea.

  3. I don't think they would feel offended.

  4. Depends on the field. If there is no clear first or corresponding author, I would contact either one of them. They would probably either reply or forward the e-mail to the other author.

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  1. I think it is reasonable to make such a request but your success will depend on how it is done. If you clearly express your interest and reason for asking as well as express your understanding if they were to decline, you have made a humble request which should not offend anyone. If you can I think it would be even better to try to talk to the person directly (putting a face on the request). This takes some guts but is clearly worth it if you think you have significant use for the results of the paper. If you get a no, you might be able to ascertain what the reasons of the no might be, there might be personal or copyright reasons.
  2. The answer to this is perhaps given by 1 already. Yes, short but with enough details to give the person the clear reasons why you would benefit from the presentation.
  3. Turning it into a habit is probably not advisable unless the person you ask becomes more of a mentor than just a source for information. I think most people want something back and perhaps admiration might just not be enough.
  4. I would say, yes, contact both with the same mail. Sending two separate requests would probably just be seen as fishy.

So in short, be brief clear and polite in your request and be honest about your reasons for the request. Just remember that the response will vary from person to person so there is no guarantee for success in every case.

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Unless there are reasons that a presentation is considered proprietary (the ground rules of the conference, or it occurred in a non-conference setting, such as a presentation at a corporation or program review), it is unlikely to be a problem to email the presenter for a copy of the slides.

A short note with the email indicating where you saw the presentation, and why you're interested in it, is never remiss, as it shows active interest in the researchers work. With respect to how often to ask, I'd wait a few weeks between requests; otherwise, you will be seen as being a bit too "pushy."

With respect to coauthors, usually the first author is the presenter, unless otherwise indicated. It's probably best to contact the first author initially, and then move to additional coauthors if there's no response.

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If this is theoretical computer science, then the author order would usually be alphabetical. –  Tara B Feb 25 '13 at 17:40
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