I am reading a paper where they cite "Apply the X Algorithm on the result" after a series of operations on "result" in the algorithm. The rest of the algorithm is clear in what it asks to do, but the "X Algorithm" and "applying" it are not clear in what is supposed to be done. Also, there is no other place in the paper, nor any citation to another paper, where the algorithm is cited.

Looking up "X Algorithm" online does give an explanation to how it works, but the result does not seem close to what the expected results are. For example, the explanation online gives results that are always integers, when the result is supposed to be a real number normally distributed between 0 and 1.

Is it suitable to contact the author(s) of the paper directly and get an explanation/access to implementation of the algorithm because it is not explained in the paper?

  • 4
    It can't hurt to try. It might also be worth posting a question to the CS.SE or ComputationalScience.SE or one of the other relevant subject-specific SE sites that links to the paper in question and asks for help interpreting how the authors did it. These kinds of questions are frequent on the Computational Science SE at the very least.
    – Bill Barth
    Nov 8 '14 at 14:31

This is a perfect example of a case in which one should:

  1. contact the authors with a polite request for additional information, and
  2. fiercely and privately curse to yourself about the inadequacies of peer review.
  • 3
    +1 I just needed to make a comment first, pointing out your cool 6666 reputation before I destroy it :D
    – yo'
    Nov 8 '14 at 15:22
  • In this case it appears more likely that the person asking just lacked familiarity with a standard algorithm (one that computer scientists could be expected to know, that is described in a previous paper on the subject, and that is documented on Wikipedia). See cs.stackexchange.com/q/32844/755. So, this does not appear to be an instance of inadequacy of peer review, nor does it appear to be a situation would it would be appropriate to contact the authors. Instead, the best thing the person asking could do is do more research and self-study.
    – D.W.
    Nov 9 '14 at 0:09

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