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As an example, consider the deflection of light by mass. This is a general relativistic effect wherein a large body causes light to not travel in straight lines. Deflection of starlight by the Sun was one of the first experimental tests of General Relativity. The successful detection overturned Newtonian mechanics and made Einstein famous.

This experiment was conducted about the Sun because, as the most massive object in the Solar System, the magnitude of the deflection is also greatest for the Sun, making it the easiest to detect. However, there's no reason why light would not be deflected by, say, Jupiter. Suppose a researcher, through very careful measurements, measures deflection of starlight by Jupiter. Are the results publishable?

On the one hand, the measurement is new, and it has not been done before.* On the other hand, it should not surprise anyone if the measured deflection matches theoretical predictions from GR, in fact it would be a major shock (of Nobel-winning magnitude) if it didn't match. Absent this major shock, then, I suspect most physicists will immediately lose interest in the details of the experiment.**

I've tagged the question with 'physics' because the example is from physics, although I'm also interested if something similar happens in another field.

*I don't actually know if it's been done before. If it has been done before, replace "Jupiter" with a lower-mass object like the Moon.

**To be a bit more technical, most physicists would expect deviations from General Relativity (if they happen at all) in the strong-field limit - that is, where gravity is very strong (e.g. around black holes). Going from the Sun to Jupiter is going in the "wrong direction", towards the weak-field limit.

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    Quite frankly, I wish we had journals and databases dedicated to tracking reproductions of existing techniques, let alone new techniques of verifying stuff. May 15, 2023 at 16:30
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    Every successful verification is publishable, the question is whether it's interesting.
    – Valorum
    May 15, 2023 at 17:27

2 Answers 2

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It was straightforward to find a paper relevant to your proposed experiment: Li et al., Light Deflection under the Gravitational Field of Jupiter—Testing General Relativity, ApJ 925, 47 (2022), showing quite clearly that such tests are publishable. I'm also reminded of Gravity Probe B, a satellite that was launched to test aspects of general relativity within Earth's weak gravitational field, calling for a design capable of high-precision measurements. In that case, the goal was to test two unverified predictions of the theory or it likely would not have been funded. On the other hand, time at Earth-based observatories is much cheaper.

In general, as outlined in TimRias' answer, physics is very open to publishing precision tests of theories, as is seen clearly in, for example, quantum electrodynamics (QED). Precision tests and independent verification provide key information about how well we know something.

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As long as the experiment is testing the theory in a new way/regime where it has not been previously tested, and isn't a simple trivial variant of a previous test, then in principle the result should be publishable. The fact that we have a very strong prior on the outcome (one way or the other) does not really change that. It may not necessarily get into the highest tier journals, but it should be publishable nonetheless (as long as the work scientifically sound etc.).

A completely separate question is if research like this is fund-able...

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    The paper linked by Anyon is published in one of the most prestigious astrophysics journals, and one of the papers with the results of Gravity Probe B was also published in PRL, which is one of the most prestigious physics journals. I'm impressed, the Gravity Probe B paper even has over 3k citations according to Google Scholar. I'd have guessed most people would not really be interested in the result ...
    – Allure
    May 16, 2023 at 3:39
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    The impression I get from my colleagues who work in particle physics is that these types of experiments get discussed quite a lot, since by verifying existing models in different ways, they also rule out violations of said models in different ways. So they're often on the top of peoples minds when they're trying to figure out which direction to go in their research. May 16, 2023 at 11:04
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    Citation wise, you will also tend to cite these experiments in the introduction of your articles, as justifications for why you chose to investigate a certain model or not (i.e. you ought to mention which models have already been ruled out by experiment) May 16, 2023 at 11:05
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    Consider this situation: The experiment couldn't have been carried out 50 years ago due to lack of precision measurements. These measurements have been developed for unrelated purposes. And someone figures out "with these new tools, we could now do this experiment successfully". It would useful both for testing the 50 year old theory in a new way, and making sure that supposedly general purpose measurement tools work in a context that they were not designed for.
    – gnasher729
    May 16, 2023 at 15:29

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