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Say a paper submitted for publication in a journal by Prof. Bertie Wooster references a paper by Dr Augustus Fink-Nottle, but that paper was the subject of a critical peer-reviewed comment by Prof. Roderick Spode. Should I insist as a reviewer that Prof. Spode's paper should also be referenced and the criticism at least mentioned, even if I personally do not agree with Prof. Spode's point of view?

My intuition is that the reader of a paper should reasonably expect to be made aware of any element on which Prof. Woosters work is based that has been seriously called into question, so that he is able to form an opinion on the matter. Am I being unreasonable in this expectation?

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  • Why are you asking? (E.g.: you are reviewing a paper as opposed to you are writing a paper) Commented Jan 18, 2014 at 17:36
  • neither in this case, but I am interested in the general principle, so I don't want to get into specifics as that might influence the answers. As it happens I have written a handful of comments papers, and it is interesting to see when they get cited alongside the original and when they don't. Commented Jan 18, 2014 at 17:42

2 Answers 2

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This depends on why you reference the paper. If you reference it because of the details that were later commented on, there is definitely reason to also mention the disagreement. I would consider that a basic aspect of any referencing of relevant literature. If, on the other hand the comments by Spode have later been shown to be wrong (Jeeves, 2008) or irrelevant the "historic" discussion has little relevance.

So I think your sense is correct. But, the necessity to reference both depends on the reason for referencing. The two are not eternally linked for every aspect of the original paper, only the parts where opinions differ and from which the discussion has arisen.

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    +1 Good point about the reason for the referencing. The real problem is that rather than being shown to be wrong by Jeeves (definitive on most things, but notoriously hidebound and reactionary on the subject of evening wear), there is instead a rejoinder from Fink-Nottle, that is rather unsatisfactory, leaving either side able to claim the other having been shown to be wrong. Thanks for your answers to both of todays questions! Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 20:47
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I basically agree with Peter Jansson's answer. But I'm wondering:

  • It's clear the follow-up papers need to be cited if they are important for the topic at hand. In that case, I'd not only reference them but sum them in a sentence or so.
  • If they are not immediately relevant, I'd still mention them, like

    ... paper [Fink-Nottle] and the follow-up discussion [Spode, Fink-Nottle2]

    or, even shorter

    ... paper [Fink-Nottle, Spode, Fink-Nottle2]

    IMHO this is very low effort, and it is being nice to readers who want to look into the first Fink-Nottle paper (possibly because its topic is closer to what they are looking for than the major part of the present paper).

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  • +1 For myself, if it is an important matter I would take the first option, if it was not an important matter I would use the shorter method. If someone is interested enough to go and read Fink-Nottle1, they are probably going to want to be aware of Spode and Fink-Nottle2 as well, it might be an important issue for their research. Commented Jan 18, 2014 at 18:40

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