During my research on a specific topic, I found two interesting papers by same authors. So, I decided to implement their proposed idea but it was not possible. At first, I thought that I was wrong but after thorough exploration of the papers and reading other papers in the field, I found many mistakes and errors within those papers.

For examples, some of the standard and common rules were presented mistakenly. Since the papers published in highly-esteemed journals, it should be considered as a real drawback. Frankly saying, I take it as some type of betraying to the science and research community.

It seems that either they did not have adequate knowledge to write such a paper or they intentionally added some noise (!) to the paper to make the simulation by others impossible. So, me and my supervisor have decided to write a critical review for those papers. However, I'm afraid of the consequences.

Can this be a possible scenario that the authors - specifically the somewhat famous ones - affect my future researches, for example trying to reject my papers through their relationships with other editors and researchers, i.e. blacklisting me.

  • 3
    I can't speak from experience here but I am inclined to say "probably, but that shouldn't stop you". Do try to keep your criticism professional and focused on the results not the people. In your writing, assume the best, not the worst, and don't include any sentiment near "betraying the science and research community". In other words, don't allege anything you can't prove, just write what you can prove. Aug 24, 2019 at 9:14
  • 3
    Also, depending on the field and the circumstance, you might consider reaching out to the corresponding author with your comments as you prepare your critique. If this is the work of one shady individual and a bunch of lab mate co-authors that didn't read it, it gives everyone else a chance to disavow the work. That might open a can of worms too, but it softens the blow. Aug 24, 2019 at 9:16
  • 3
    Can you write a positive paper that builds on them instead? If someone writes on "Spoons as bread-cutting devices" you could write a comment discussing the errors of their ways, but a better approach might be to write "Serrated knives as superior bread-cutting devices" and demonstrate how your method is superior and in the process discuss how the previous result with spoons might have been based on some false assumptions.
    – Bryan Krause
    Aug 24, 2019 at 14:40
  • 4
    @Eilia Yes, I just meant that sometimes showing what is right is better received than showing what is wrong. Not that critical review isn't useful, but "Further, it seems it's intentionally because it's impossible that anyone who can come up with such an idea could not aware of those basic or common things." - that's actually a pretty serious accusation, so be careful.
    – Bryan Krause
    Aug 24, 2019 at 15:19
  • 3
    @Eilia The first thing you should do is send it to your advisor and get their advice.
    – Bryan Krause
    Aug 24, 2019 at 15:32

4 Answers 4


Have you tried talking to the authors directly?

Reach out to the authors before you publish. Don't phrase it as a criticism. Try something like.

I'm confused by how your paper used X, Y, and Z. The normal interpretation is W.

  • 2
    Unfortunately, none of them responded to my emails!
    – Eilia
    Aug 31, 2019 at 6:14
  • 2
    @Eilia, of course. Academic ghosting. Careless authors who ignore emails exposing the carelessness of their work. I think to write a critical review is an excellent choice by you and your advisor.
    – Dilworth
    Aug 31, 2019 at 10:26
  • 1
    @Dilworth, thanks for your support.
    – Eilia
    Aug 31, 2019 at 12:45

If you are correct in your analysis and can back up your ideas then there should be no long-term consequences. Truth will out. But in the short term, there may be some disruption.

Science only advances based on valid work. Calling out problems in old work helps move us forward.

But be straightforward in your "criticism" focusing on the work and not the motives of the authors. The latter can get you in trouble.

And, of course, make sure you are correct.


Many scenarios are possible, depending on the authors' character. You might even earn their esteem and gratefulness. However, if they write intentionally misleading papers and don't answer emails, they will surely not like that you denounce their errors (or worse).

Nevertheless, another flaw of human nature is working in your favour: there is nothing like a good polemic for attracting attention. If the authors are belligerent, you could be starting a polemic that may take a lot of your time, but may also make your reputation.


According to the comments and responses I've came up with a new idea, perhaps best of the two worlds! It may be more useful and less threatening (both for me and the original authors) if we write a comment referencing their paper including some questions and some other suggestions for improving the works.

It's far moderate than a critical review with the aim of questioning validity of their works. Moreover, they have right and opportunity to respond to that comment, by the way.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .