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I’m writing my first scientific paper as a PhD student and it’s a comparison of 6 different instruments that measure precipitation. The instruments differ massively in terms of cost, and their performance is inherently tied to that. The discussion seems pointless without giving the reader this knowledge. Simply saying “low cost” or “relatively high cost” doesn’t quite cut it for me.

I realise I’m entering risky territory, but how might I quote the price of these instruments in the paper? The separate companies do not actively publish this information, you must request a quote. Am I breaking the law or simply pissing off these companies if I attempt to publish this data?

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    Prices are usually different in different countries, indeed, some things are not supplied to some countries due to trade agreements/restrictions -(seems a current topic at the moment...) – Solar Mike Oct 14 '18 at 11:48
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    You could consider publishing relative prices - probably rounded to one significant figure. Presumably, because of the subject of your PhD, you need to explicitly identify the instrument manufacturers, model numbers, etc - otherwise, using generic descriptions and relative prices would be enough to avoid identifying the specific manufacturers IMO. – alephzero Oct 14 '18 at 14:05
  • Not to judge but it sounds like you are writing a kind of review of instruments which hardly qualify as scientific paper unless you investigate and explain the reasons under different performances. And as far your question is concerned do not give prices but just vendor and models – Alchimista Nov 23 '18 at 11:52
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One reason why usually no definitive prices are publicly communicated is that the manufacturers compete against each other when bidding on a tender, where e.g. one lab might ask for quotes from several possible sellers. It would be a disadvantage for a vendor, if their competitors would have knowledge about the specific prices.

Apart from possibly releasing undisclosed information about the prices, another difficulty that I can see with publishing those numbers is that the prices might differ significantly depending on who is asking for the quote and the intended use. Industry customers might have to pay different prices than public institutions, non-profit organizations or individual persons. The instruments might further be discounted depending on how many one would purchase. Also, prices might change on rather short time scales and not be valid anymore after as short as a couple of months.

Therefore, you should take into consideration that any price information available to you might not even be accurate or generally applicable to the audience of your paper.

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    Information about prices isn't "proprietary" unless the manufacturer has explicitly marked it as such prior to providing a quote, and the recipient has agreed to an NDA on it. – E.P. Oct 14 '18 at 15:03
  • Ok, "proprietary" is probably the wrong word for what I wanted to express (I am not a native speaker). May be "undisclosed" fits better. Does that make more sense? – nabla Oct 14 '18 at 18:56
  • Good points - the fluctuations can be overcome with a disclaimer saying “accurate in Oct 2018; prices may differ with region” for example. Alternatively do you have any advice on how I could be writing instead? To demonstrate that one instrument is several times the cost with only a small improvement in variable accuracy? Trying to not be vague by using language such as “more expensive” or “cheaper” that really mean nothing to the reader if not quantified... – Ben Pickering Oct 15 '18 at 12:48

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