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I recently had a paper rejected from two mathematics journals. From the first one it was rejected at the editorial level for being out of scope. Since there was no review we sent the paper as it is to another journal. My work is based on the work of researcher A who happened to be the editor of the second journal. The paper was sent for review and we received the reviewers comments which said that the topic was interesting but the proofs were not innovative and the examples didn’t use the concepts introduced by A in an exact and deep way. The paper was rejected. While I am able to accept the reasons for the rejection, I am unsure how to improve the manuscript based on these comments. Since researcher A is an expert in the field, I was wondering if I would write to him for more concrete suggestions. Is it alright to do this?

EDIT: I realise that the following background is probably pertinent: I have completed my PhD in a different topic. By the end of my PhD I became too frustrated with the topic and the way my advisor kept treating me (long story) so I just completed with the bare minimum for my degree and graduated, which I was allowed to do. I took up a teaching position in a small college and am happy here. I have now started working independently in the topic that researcher A works in and have published one paper along with my colleagues. This would be the second paper if it gets published.

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  • An option would be to propose to researcher A to collaborate. Usually, people are open to collaborating on topics of their interest. In this way, you could learn a lot from a more experienced researcher. Dec 13, 2023 at 19:01
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    Without knowing any details, the general advice is to simply go lower on the ladder. Dec 13, 2023 at 19:19
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    Are you a student? Do you have a research advisor/mentor?
    – Bryan Krause
    Dec 13, 2023 at 19:59
  • @BryanKrause I have edited my question in response to your comment as replying in the comment section would have been too long.
    – R_D
    Dec 14, 2023 at 1:46
  • How does your paper compare to others in the field? Dec 14, 2023 at 2:45

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It is okay to email any person who has a publicly listed professional email. As long as your email is polite and respectful, you are not doing anything wrong by sending it.

However, the fact that it’s okay doesn’t mean it’s likely you will get a helpful reply. It’s possible that you won’t get any reply, and it’s possible (and slightly more likely in my opinion) that the expert will reply but they won’t want to spend more than a few minutes engaging with your questions. The least likely scenario is that you’ll get a reply that is extremely detailed and helpful; but even that is not inconceivable.

Basically, don’t set your expectations too high, but it’s fine to send the email. Good luck!

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    Just to add: don’t ask so much for “how do I improve my paper?” More “I am so interested in what you are doing that look, I even attempted a paper about it.” You might for instance ask something like “how have you yourself taken your ideas forward?”. People love to communicate about what they are doing, and you may find yourself pointed to preprints, perhaps even be alerted to forthcoming seminars… And will end up not being a complete unknown in this field. Dec 14, 2023 at 7:56
  • @MartinKochanski yes what you say makes sense.
    – R_D
    Dec 14, 2023 at 15:14

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