During my literature survey for a project, I came across papers that have very interesting results and have decent number of citations. Unfortunately, the sub-area I am exploring doesn’t have any standard datasets on which I can test my implementation of the algorithm presented in their paper. The authors have generated the dataset by applying certain actions on a subset of publicly available information, which are Flickr images in my case.

So I have contacted the authors, asking whether they can provide me with their code or the dataset that they used for their implementation so that I may use it to perform my experiments and possibly try to extend their approach. But almost a week has passed by, and I haven’t received any response from them. Does that mean that,

  1. My method of asking was not correct? (In that case, what would be appropriate?)
  2. They don’t have the code or dataset available? (The papers were published in 2004.)
  3. They are not interested?

Would it be polite to remind them again?

  • 23
    (iv) They're away, busy, ... . I'd give them a bit more time than almost a week. Commented Oct 20, 2013 at 9:24
  • 5
    (5) They never got your request (email stuck in spam folder, etc.).
    – earthling
    Commented Oct 20, 2013 at 12:24
  • 3
    Also, it's Sunday, so this means what? That they have had a couple of working days or so to find the code & dataset from 2004 and send it to you.
    – Pål GD
    Commented Oct 20, 2013 at 13:39
  • I'd like to take this great opportunity to advertise IPOL: a recent journal on image processing, where authors must publish both the article and the implementation in a given language of their algorithms. Readers can then directly reproduce the experiments described in the paper, access the source, access the tested images, use his or her own images on the code and so on. I do not know whether the whole data is asked, but the concept could be extended that way. Commented Jan 16, 2014 at 7:47

2 Answers 2


The reason for no response may be anything from what Anthony Labarre mentions to what you list. I would wait at least a month before writing off an answer; I have received answers even later than that. It is possible they are working on improvements themselves as well. In short, if you do not get a reply, you can only try again and perhaps express your request differently.

You seem to have contacted all the authors. Sometimes the project leader may be too busy to pick up on questions and the younger team members may be more inclined to answer. They may, however, want to talk it over among themselves, and it is probably not a high priority.

So try again in a couple of weeks. If you do not get any response, then there is probably not much you can do. You probably need to think about what can do to improve the chances for a reply. The word "collaboration" is sometimes a good way to "sweeten the deal". Sometimes, just to give a perspective, I get requests for data that are of the sort, give me this or that, give me everything, and I often end up asking myself, why should I? having laboured to generate the data. I am not saying you must follow such an approach to be successful but considering why the other researchers would want to help you may also help towards solving the communication problem.


If they don't respond to e-mail, I'd try to give them a call. Many people get a lot of e-mail (running projects, requests to be hired as postdoc, etc, etc), so it is hard for you to get attention in this large amount of mails. Calling them makes it personal, you have their undivided attention at that moment. I would first ask them if they have time right then to answer your question, and propose to reschedule your call to a time that they are available.

  • 9
    If somebody I do not know calls me out of the blue to ask for a data set from 2004, he will have my attention for exactly as long as it takes to get rid of her/him again.
    – xLeitix
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 16:55
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    Also, I seriously hate the notion of calling busy people to get their attention faster. To me, this hijacks the priority queue of the person you are trying to address, and kind of implies that what you want from her/him now is more important than whatever s/he is currently doing.
    – xLeitix
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 16:58

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