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A paper was uploaded to Arxiv that is very similar to my research. I cited it in the related work section of the paper I am currently working on. I was planning on noting the shortcomings of this Arxiv paper when a few days later I found that it was rejected from the conference via openreview. My questions are:

  • Should I leave this citation in?
  • Should I say that it has been rejected?
  • Should the knowledge of the rejection change the way I talk about the paper?

This is the first time something like this has happened to me, so not sure how I should approach this.

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    Interesting. Before a rejected paper wasn't a paper. It is hard to say in general. I think it depends on why you would cite it. – Alchimista Jan 22 at 10:43
  • I agree with the answers below. However I think you may want to read that rejected paper again to make sure it doesn't have any serious mistakes that lead to it's rejection but may also lead to your paper's rejection. – Yanko Jan 22 at 14:10
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Should I leave this citation in?

Definitely. A paper on arxiv is still related work regardless of its submission/acceptance status.

Should I say that it has been rejected?

No. That seems inappropriate. The paper may soon be accepted elsewhere in which case your comment about rejection will be outdated.

Just cite it like you would any other paper. If you want, your bibliography could link to the openreview page where people could see the reviews and decision.

Should the knowledge of the rejection change the way I talk about the paper?

Not really. Perhaps the reviews include some useful information. Otherwise treat it like any other paper.

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Should I leave this citation in?

Yes. If the work is related to yours and may be relevant to those reading your paper, you should cite it.

Should I say that it has been rejected?

No. The rejection is only a transitory part in the paper's life cycle. If you cite it as an arXiv paper, that in and of itself already communicates the paper has not yet been accepted anywhere.

Should the knowledge of the rejection change the way I talk about the paper?

No, probably not. The rejection doesn't necessarily mean the paper is bad, it just means the conference had no room to accept it. It could still be a very good paper, it just didn't make the cut at the conference. If you know it was rejected for a very serious reason, then that might be relevant (for instance if the reviewing process found a crucial flaw in the paper).

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I would definitely not cite it without a strong reason to include it.

The scientific community used to rely on "personal communication" as a method to cite truly useful or pivotal information that came from a source that had a meaningful influence on the development of the work, but was not publicly available. However, it was generally discouraged for use only in extreme cases because it undermines the nature of peer review.

The two primary purposes of peer review are to check validity and to provide feedback to improve the paper for the benefit of the intended audience. If the reviewers (which are part of the audience) find the paper not valuable enough to accept and the authors don't find the work valuable enough to improve, then why cite it? Just because somebody wrote it, doesn't mean it is valuable and if it is duplicitous, then, by definition, it lacks value from a scientific perspective. It is the author's responsibility to demonstrate the worth of the contents, not the other way around. It is also the responsibility of authors of subsequent works to respect their audience and provide the audience value. Citing a paper that the community found lacking, solely for the purposes of "completeness", is not a service to your audience. I would argue it is a waste of the reader's time and dilutes the value of other works. Would you list a paper you knew was deceptive or falsified, just to provide completeness? (I hope not!)

If an unpublished work truly influenced your work, then, by all means cite it and explain why you are doing so. However, citing a paper that the authors, themselves, do not feel is worth their time to improve has a negative reflection on your own efforts, which I would avoid. Rejected papers on Arxiv are little different than an unreviewed work on a personal website or an advertising site. Some communities use them for feedback, which is great! But failure to respect the feedback and improve and eventually publish the paper should not be encouraged.

Scientists need to be cautious or the entire enterprise is jeopardized. Once, in my own naivete, I "invented" the Hough Transform. But just because I thought of it independently doesn't mean I deserve equal credit. In fact, it demonstrated how little I knew!

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