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(Preface: I'm just an undergraduate, so none of this actually matters; it just seemed an interesting case study.)

About years ago, a lab published a very unexpected result (in, I should add, a predatory journal).

Last year, another lab produced some evidence to support the paper (in, I should add, an even worse predatory journal, which doesn't matter except that they might not have heard of some of the issues in peer-review).

I failed to replicate the original results. There seem to be some subtle but serious issues with the original paper that might explain this; but I don't intend to publish this rough work. In particular, the method used in the original work is notorious for false positives.

I recently found out from funding reports that the other lab is still working on the phenomena and are probably done with their data-taking by now.

Is it even remotely good practice to send a quick email to the other lab with concerns?

(I wouldn't be concerned about bad work in C- journal, but this has some recent relevance.)

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    I don't think this question is actually about ethics. – Anonymous Physicist Feb 21 at 5:34
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    Just to put things into perspective: Anything published in predatory journals is essentially ignored by the scientific community. – user2705196 Feb 21 at 13:54
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    I edited your question a little bit (although user2's comment is totally correct). Can you clarify what concerns you want to email about? That you can't replicate, or that they had published in a bad journal? – Azor Ahai -him- Feb 22 at 16:28
  • @Azor Thanks for the edits: I kind of liked the disclaimer being first, so I changed that back, hope you don't mind. – 0xDBFB7 Feb 22 at 17:09
  • I'm not sure why you think you being an undergraduate doesn't matter, but whatever – Azor Ahai -him- Feb 22 at 17:10
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It would be fine to contact them and say that you tried X and would like their help figuring out why you did not get result Y.

Assuming you are right and they are wrong might be considered rude by some people.

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    @ZeroTheHero Many academics ignore all their emails, but good ones do not. Good academics care about undergraduates. They are the future of research. – Anonymous Physicist Feb 21 at 5:43
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    You are conflating two issues here: one is caring about undergraduates, the other is caring about cold emails by undergraduates claiming your research results are incorrect when another lab has verified them. – ZeroTheHero Feb 21 at 5:45
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    @0xDBFB7 your first step must be to have your results validated by someone with experience with this kind of experiment/analysis. The odds are against you being right, but the odds are not 0. Unfortunately to stake such a claim you must be bulletproof. – ZeroTheHero Feb 21 at 5:50
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    @ZeroTheHero There is no such thing as bulletproof science. Not that I'm sure we are talking about science. Your comments border on insulting towards undergraduates. Assuming the question is wrong is inappropriate. – Anonymous Physicist Feb 21 at 8:42
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    I must admit I don’t understand your reply to my comment. Of course you can be bulletproof: if your analysis and results are understandable and repeatable by others, you are there. Credibly challenging reproducible results is NOT easy, and the OP is now no longer challenging the initial result but also the confirming result. – ZeroTheHero Feb 21 at 14:25
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Referring to @ZeroTheHero's answer ("an email alert from an undergraduate would instantly go in the trash and/or spam"); if you are working under the supervision of someone else, even nominally, it would be a good idea to run your issues by them first, for two reasons:

  • you might be mistaken, a more senior person in your field might be able to confirm or disconfirm your results fairly easily;
  • politically, it would be a good idea both to get a more senior person on your side (you might even ask them to make the first contact), and to avoid dragging someone who is supervising you into a potentially sticky political situation without their knowledge.
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Whether a researcher has an ethical obligation to act is field dependent: I know no field that requires a researcher to reveal their research beliefs; researchers are ethically free to keep their research private. (Perhaps with some exceptions which demand disclosure to the state. And some well-defined contexts, e.g., human experimentation, as noted in a comment.)

Researchers may feel they have a moral obligation to share. Email is appropriate for an informal, under-developed idea; a technical report for a more formal, better-developed idea; and a peer-reviewed publication is appropriate for formal, developed ideas. (Draft reports/submissions can be shared by email.)

When emailing peers, I recommend positing that your theory must be wrong, because it contradicts the work of peers, and that you must have made a mistake. You can then ask where you are mistaken, where you have misunderstood their results.

In seeking clarification, rather than raising concerns, surely no one can fault you.

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    It can be indeed be unethical to not share research. From the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki: "Researchers, authors, sponsors, editors and publishers all have ethical obligations with regard to the publication and dissemination of the results of research. Researchers have a duty to make publicly available the results of their research on human subjects and are accountable for the completeness and accuracy of their reports... Negative and inconclusive as well as positive results must be published or otherwise made publicly available." – Nuclear Hoagie Feb 22 at 14:00
  • @NuclearHoagie What's the context [in which results must be...made publicly available]? – user2768 Feb 22 at 14:07
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    It's unspecified, but that could be a manuscript or conference proceeding or any form of publication. This document isn't legally binding or anything, but lays out the ethics of doing research on human subjects. It would be unethical to conduct research on humans subjects and then just keep all your data and findings locked in a filing cabinet forever. – Nuclear Hoagie Feb 22 at 14:20
  • @NuclearHoagie +1 I've edited my answer to note. – user2768 Feb 22 at 15:27
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I’m sorry to say that unless your own results can be verified through peer-review and you can explain why you cannot reproduce the original result but another lab can, an email alert from an undergraduate would instantly go in the trash and/or spam.

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    Peer review does not verify things. Proper science does not discard data based on the rank of the scientist. – Anonymous Physicist Feb 21 at 5:35
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    @AnonymousPhysicist Proper science should not but an undergraduate sending such an email has very low credibility, and yes peer-review does verify things such as procedures, analysis and conclusion. – ZeroTheHero Feb 21 at 5:40
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    Actually, this is a good point, I think. Emailing someone directly sidesteps peer-review. That seems pretty bad in general, and I'm glad you brought that up. – 0xDBFB7 Feb 21 at 5:41
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    It is just matter of wording. A student can ask for an opinion/help. It seems to me that being the concerned papers both in predatory journals we are not speaking of good academics nor interesting results. OP should do what s/he think is of interest, perhaps consulting a supervisor, and that is. The probability that something worth of thinking about ended up in predatory journals is low. – Alchimista Feb 21 at 10:51

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