I am a PhD student working in mechanical properties of materials and will be finishing soon. My PhD is in numerical modelling, so I need experimental data (stress-strain curves) to validate my programs. And this is where the situation starts to tangle:
- There is a set of data published by a group from another university that I would like to test in my model. This data comes from lab experiments and they also did some numerical modelling trying to replicate it.
- Some data is published in a paper and some other is published in a PhD thesis.
- The PhD thesis is not available online, but can be accessed publicly (physically) in the library of the other university.
- I have asked for the raw data and a copy of the PhD thesis to the other group and the response I got was: we are not going to send it to you, and we prohibit you to use any of our data in your research.
- I then learned that there is a bad relationship between our group and their group because of historical competition.
- I have scanned the data in the paper (I created a program to fit the curves in the image and get an analytical expression for it) and run my simulations.
- I happen to have a copy of the thesis (a third person gave me a scanned copy), so I did the same.
- In both cases my numerical results are significantly better than those from the other group, which is why we think that my research would have a high impact.
- Since I scanned their data I can generate my own figures, so I guess image copyright is left out of the equation.
- I will, of course, cite where the data comes from.
I believe in open science, so I would never do what they did. However, I get their point on not wanting me to have the data, since they did the experiments. What I believe is not ethical/appropriate is banning me from using any of their data sets.
Finally, we could prepare these experiments in our lab, but it will take a couple of years, resources and expertise (which I don't have), so this is not viable.
So my questions are:
- What are the implications of publishing my comparison with their data?
- Is it ethical, given that I have been denied the use of the data?
- Would there be any additional problems if we decided to publish a paper or publish the thesis as a book?