I have spotted a substantial error in a technical paper that significantly affects its results. I plan to write a comment paper about this. I have already contacted the author of the original paper, who kindly replied and agreed with me about the error. I have also asked if we could write the comment paper together.

My question is: Is it a good idea to write this paper alone if the author does not want to collaborate?

I ask because everyone working in this literature knows each other. Unfortunately, I wonder if this might create enemies. Of course, my intention is not to blame anyone but to correct a methodological error and warn others for future research. By the way, the paper is published in a highly reputable journal in my field.

I have already looked at some previous questions asked in stackexchange like this one. It is similar but not really the same question.

1 Answer 1


If the author doesn't want to collaborate and doesn't want to write such a paper themself, acknowledging your contribution, then, yes, you can write the paper yourself or with other colleagues who also recognize the problem. It is important to correct the research record when error is found. It is less important who does it.

You can avoid making enemies in the field by sticking to the facts and not making you commentary personal. You have done the right thing by offering to collaborate. It is their choice to do so or not.

  • Agreed, proceed without them. But do not be surprised if they put together a 'Reply to' note (which is pretty standard in my field).
    – Jon Custer
    Commented May 28 at 20:06
  • 1
    Answer and comment above are written based on the assumption that the original author does not want to collaborate. I do think that the best case is if the author does want to collaborate. Commented May 28 at 20:23
  • @JonCuster, I think some journals more or less require the "reply to". I remember reading one that was, essentially, "Good catch, [other authors]. Here's some more background on the problem they found."
    – Matt
    Commented May 29 at 16:54
  • @Matt - the one's I'm familiar with give the original paper's authors an opportunity to respond, but do not require it. Many do craft replies. As one recent example, journals.aps.org/pra/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevA.109.026201 does not seem to have a reply associated with it (nearly always in the same journal issue).
    – Jon Custer
    Commented May 29 at 17:12

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