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In my area of research there is this old PhD thesis cited by everyone, which is inaccessible. Due to this, recent surveys even question its validity.

Recently, I contacted the authors and received their original document. On a cursory glance the techniques are sound and the result seems valid. Assuming that it is correct, I definitely think that this result needs to be published.

Both authors also expressed interest in a publication but I do not expect they will put much effort into it, given that the thesis is old and the student writing the thesis seems to have left academia. Moreover, the formatting of the result hardly matches what is expected by nowadays journals.

In what respect can I support the result being published in some peer-reviewed venue? Currently, given time, I would consider rewriting the result and sending it to the original authors for them to proceed as they wish. Are there any other options? In what respect would the result being published in some inaccessible thesis hinder its acceptance at a good journal?

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    I am curious, why does it need to be republished? Wouldn't making the already-published document (which everyone is citing) publicly available not suffice?
    – GoodDeeds
    Jul 30 at 12:16
  • Making it publicly available would be a great first step the authors have not done for some reason. Still the result would be difficult to follow for various reasons. Moreover, it would lack peer review. Jul 30 at 12:36
  • If it's a thesis then it would be automatically peer reviewed, no? (by the thesis committee and supervisor)
    – Allure
    Jul 30 at 13:18
  • @Allure Thesis "peer review" and journal peer review isn't really the same, and theses are not considered peer reviewed publications in my field and others I am aware of. One big difference is that for a thesis, the author typically is selecting their own reviewers, and one in particular, their thesis advisor, would likely be a coauthor for the published work and has the biggest influence on acceptance of the thesis.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 30 at 14:36
  • Peer review is not appropriate here. There is an old work that is important and cited by many persons but unavailable or not easily available.(Not exactly sure how that can be.) In that case, the work should be published as a historical reference as it is and not peer reviewed, revised or altered.
    – Neithea
    Jul 30 at 15:27
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You did not write what your area of research is. In mathematics, it is quite common to do the following:

  • When you write a new paper that uses that old result, you cite this result as everyone does.
  • Then, you write something like: "For completeness, I provide in Appendix A a stand-alone proof of the same result".
  • In Appendix A, you indeed provide a stand-alone proof, which is written according to modern standards, such that it is easier to read by current authors.

Your paper will be published based on its main content; the appendix won't hinder its acceptance at a good journal. Hopefully, it will be reviewed by good reviewers, who will read and review the appendix.

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