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Currently I am reading a research paper of a well-known author published in 2011. I did a slight modification in his method and the new method is very efficient.

Is it reasonable to send that paper first to the author before sending it to any journal?

  • Do you mean: sending a draft or sending a published (or: submitted, posted on arXiv) paper? – Piotr Migdal Sep 15 '12 at 19:38
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I've worked on a few method development projects and I'm of the opinion that it is a good idea particularly if the author is well-known and well-liked (if they are a dick or you don't like them, that's a different story).

The obvious reason why is because when they happened to see your paper going out for review which claims a "massive improvement" over previous methods, they aren't going to get upset at you and pull strings to make your life miserable. Furthermore, they might have insight whether or not the new method is useful or merely enhancing a particular error which makes it look good.

The only instance where sharing the paper might be a bad idea is if they happened to be working on a similar improvement. Receiving the paper may motivate them to scoop you.

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    @srijan Some areas have preprint archives (math, physics, and theoretical CS use arXiv.org). These are public websites, where you can submit your paper before you submit it to a journal. Anyone who wants can download and read your paper. When you submit your paper here, it gets a time stamp, which can help with priority disputes. – Dan C Sep 15 '12 at 5:59
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    Oh, if you're in math, you're fine since arXiv is very forgiving. If you're in stem cells, or miRNAs, that's a different story. Actually in those cases you should never send anything to anyone. Even your significant other. – bobthejoe Sep 15 '12 at 9:03
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    Receiving the paper may motivate them to scoop you. — Or it may motivate them to make you a coauthor! (See "well-known and well-liked".) – JeffE Sep 15 '12 at 18:36
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    I think JeffE's comment essentially summarizes the dilemma. If the person is a helpful person, they are going to be a helpful person. If the person scoops people, chances are you'll be scooped. Asking the senior professors for their assessment is probably the way to go. – bobthejoe Sep 15 '12 at 21:28
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    I think that the preprint (depending on your field, math sounds like one of them) is just good practice. Sounds like you're in a great situation. The only question left is whether he gets a name on the paper or an acknowledgement. – bobthejoe Sep 21 '12 at 8:15

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