I'm reviewing a work in applied mathematics, and on it, the authors work on an equation that is derived from a previous work.

There is a parameter that has been chosen in a way I would like to be justified. Looking into the reference where they extracted the equation, the original authors also don't give any explanation for it.

Therefore, should I ask for further details on this parameter? or is it enough for them to point out the seminal work?

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    If you, as a reviewer, don't fully understand the reasons behind some particular choice, or they aren't in your opinion fully justified, then: yes. E.g.: - We choose p=7. - Why? – user68958 Aug 1 '18 at 20:27
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    @corey979 You could post that as an answer. OP, I think a lot of papers would be improved by (better) justifying why specific parameters/models/methods were chosen. Suggesting such improvements to the manuscript is absolutely a part of refereeing. Asking to have such questions clarified to the reviewer(s)? Even more so. – Anyon Aug 1 '18 at 20:58
  • The two answers beg the question about the quality of the review for the original paper... – Solar Mike Aug 2 '18 at 6:02

The onus is on the authors to appropriately justify all of their choices and conclusions, either directly or by referring to previous work which in turn contains an appropriate justification.

In this case they have referred to previous work which (in your view) does not contain an appropriate justification, so their job is not done. It is completely reasonable for you as referee to object.

(Even if the previous work did contain appropriate justification, you might still feel, as in Buffy's answer, that the justification should be written in the present paper, to make it more self-contained. That's also appropriate to mention as a reviewer, but it's more a matter of style than correctness.)

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My response would likely be in the report that the authors haven't sufficiently justified their choice of parameter. If you have the question and it isn't resolved in the paper itself, future readers will still have the same question. This is for the authors to fix.

A work should be complete enough that most people don't need to chase back through all references. Your job is to help the readers in the future as well as the authors.

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