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I have come across several works that omitted the citation of relevant related literature, but clearly are camera-ready versions already accepted/presented at a conference or journal. Of course, due to the familiarity, these missing works may include some of my own papers, but for the sake of this argument, it should be assumed that they may also include the work of others.

What is the general expectation on discussing such omissions with authors?
Is it recommended to reach out to the authors post-publication and point out to them which resources/related literature they "missed" (IMO)?

I also want to add that I presume the omission is usually in good faith, i.e., simply because of the lesser popularity of these methods. As the answer may depend on the field as well, I am active in the area of Computer Science, which tends to have a comparatively high publication turnover.

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  • 2
    Great ! Not only is everyone a football trainer now, but everyone is also a referee! May 2, 2023 at 11:29
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    @Oбжорoв: I don't understand your football metaphor. Most scientists actually do have relevant experience with reviewing papers in peer review. May 2, 2023 at 12:26
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    Is it recommended to reach out to the authors post-publication... - I don't think there's a general expectation. It matters is how relevant they are, and whether you think the authors don't know/understand those references, and would benefit from them.
    – Kimball
    May 2, 2023 at 12:47
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    I wonder what you expect will happen after? If you mostly want to inform authors about other relevant earlier work, that's fine (particularly if you are not talking about your own work), but I doubt that papers are regularly errata'ed simply to cite some additional earlier work. For the latter there would need to be some actual misconduct, not just "there are some more related works you haven't discussed".
    – xLeitix
    May 2, 2023 at 12:52
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    @xLeitix I agree, the expectation is not to fix errata in the published pre-print. But rather my intent was to expand the awareness of the authors for potential future work. In case that relevant applications (or conflicting approaches) are missed, it may help future study design or evaluation.
    – dennlinger
    May 2, 2023 at 12:56

4 Answers 4

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It depends on how you do it. If you say,

I really enjoyed your paper on X. We have some lesser-known related work Y (attached). Its cool that you found result Z we found result W which is similar but also differs in some ways. It would be great to have a chat about our common interests. Would you be open to a zoom meeting?

That is totally fine. You should not mention that they didn't cite you. Just focus on actually advancing good research. If they like the work that you point out in this email, they will likely cite your papers in the future, now that they are aware of them. You might learn a bunch from each other and get a collaboration going.

If you say

I noticed you missed a citation to my work X in your recent paper. Let me explain...

No, that will be bad for your career. Nothing comes of that. You will look petty, and you could kill a potential collaboration before it ever starts.

Note in my proposed method you aren't pointing out the missed citation explicitly, but you are very very subtly suggesting it. No reasonable receiver of that email would think you were asking for a citation, but it's your best chance of potentially achieving that outcome in the future. If you point it out explicitly it will just annoy them.

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If by "worth pointing out" you mean feeling good, then yes. If you mean advancing your career, then no.

I would welcome an email pointing out that I missed an important citation. But if the email is from the author saying that I did not cite them, I'd probably be more annoyed than pleased. And if it's some nit-picky stuff, e.g. I only cited 5 of the 6 relevant works, I'd make a mental mark that the person sending the email is a nutcase with too much time.

Authors have wide discretion regarding citation. I don't like ceremonial citation, even though it is very common in my field, and that's my prerogative (ceremonial citation is citing the same old papers because it's what everybody does, regardless if the paper is relevant to the sentence preceding the citation.)

So before you send an email to an author pointing out that they missed an important citation, double check that the citation is germane to the topic, the omission is crucial to the argument being made (ie did not cite a paper countering the argument), and that your motivations are to inform the author rather than recriminate why they didn't cite you.

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Noone is required to cite works that they do not refer to - if not using certain papers as a reference, they are not (necessarily) omitted, just not used. If there are 20 papers relevant to my research, but I manage to say what I need to say by refering only to 10 of them, the others are not "omitted" but simply not necessary. I don't really understand the problem. If I were contacted by someone asking me to next time cite their paper, I would probably perceive that as spam or coercion.

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  • Also moving my previous comment: In the instances I refer to, it may not just be a trivial omission of relevant work (e.g., missing in a citation like [1,2,3,4,5]), but rather a central approach to a problem that is tackled in the specified work. I understand that the notion of what is "central" is different, and your response clearly shows the ambivalence that people have towards this topic.
    – dennlinger
    May 2, 2023 at 11:03
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    Papers are generally expected to discuss their place among the state-of-the-art, establishing what the paper is adding. This typically requires discussing (and therefore citing) related work.
    – TimRias
    May 2, 2023 at 12:48
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    @TimRias But not sufficiently contrasting to earlier work is a paper quality issue, not misconduct. Once a paper is accepted, it is accepted "as is" aside from actual factual errors, misconduct, etc.
    – xLeitix
    May 2, 2023 at 12:56
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    @xLeitix Who is talking about misconduct?
    – TimRias
    May 2, 2023 at 12:58
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    The question is specifically about not citing relevant related work.
    – TimRias
    May 2, 2023 at 16:38
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It depends on how relevant the related literature is.

If it's close enough that it might raise questions of priority, for example, a simultaneous invention, the authors certainly should know about it. There's a palette of actions that they might take, for example, updating the preprint version of the paper with a pointer to your paper, and acknowledging your paper in talks.

If it's only "some" related paper that does not affect questions of priority, it's wiser to let it slide. Authors generally don't have an obligation to cite all works that are, to some extent, relevant and related, as it would in many cases lead to an overly long related work discussion with little added benefit, basically a full "survey paper within a paper". Approaching them about it could come off as somewhat desperate.

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