There is a particular result from another author that I wanted to use in my research which is a central component to my research question (it’s an animal’s growth rate). However, deriving the results computationally requires an understanding of some areas of mathematics that neither I nor my supervisor have had training in. The nature of my work draws heavily on objects from mathematical biology, and I’ve recognized that this is a weakness in my education portfolio I intend to fill when I do my PhD.
I was making some progress in learning the math on my own, but I occasionally needed to reach out to the authors for clarification because I had nobody else I could speak with. In the end, the authors volunteered to give me their code so that I could produce their results and allow me to proceed with my research.
I find myself in the conundrum that I don’t know how to reconcile or could defend when pressed by a committee: conceptually I understand what the authors are doing, but I lack the training and time to do the computations entirely on my own. Yet I have the tool I need to continue on with my research.
I feel like this scenario is not entirely uncommon, particularly for graduate students, but I’m wondering if a reasonable defence can be formed for using another’s work (given the context above) if pressed by a committee. I only have an analogy that I would offer as a defence if pressed today. How can I approach this issue?