Recently, I have reviewed an article for the IEEE (a very good article too). Within the article, the authors place great emphasis on a particular algorithm they developed and used, without disclosing any actual code - but explained very well that it could be replicated (which I won't do)..

Now, after I have provided an anonymous review, it occurred to me that I could further test their algorithm in my similar field of research (giving due credit of course).

How would one go about asking for details of an algorithm developed in an article in review?


In a similar situation, I have sent an email to the editor asking to pass on a message and giving permission to reveal my name and contact details to the authors if they wish to respond.

Alternatively, but more problematic, you state that you may be able to replicate it. You could go ahead and do that and by the time your work is complete, the original article is likely to be available to be cited. If you were to go down this path, though, you should still be discussing this with the editor as part of your agreement as a reviewer is that you don't do this.

  • Good advice - I am definitely not going to replicate the algorithm, for the reason you stated (disallowed), but also it would not be ethical. – user41783 Oct 24 '15 at 13:08
  • "as part of your agreement as a reviewer is that you don't do this" - this is field-specific. In my CS subfield, the common understanding seems to be that the very reason why everyone should review every now and then (beside the idealistic, and thus unfortunately not very strong reason when lots of projects ask for your resources, reviewing being a community service) is precisely because one gets preliminary access to upcoming publications and thus can start building upon them particularly early. – O. R. Mapper Oct 24 '15 at 13:39
  • @O.R.Mapper In my CS subfield, the common understanding...can start building upon them particularly early — That may be the common understanding in your subfield of CS, but it strikes me as completely unethical. It certainly isn't the common understanding in my subfield of CS. – JeffE Oct 25 '15 at 16:31
  • @JeffE: I fail to see what is unethical about building upon published work and citing it properly. – O. R. Mapper Oct 25 '15 at 16:54
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    @O.R.Mapper Once the work is actually published, sure. But you're talking about exploiting your access to the work as a reviewer, which by definition happens before the work is published; exploiting that early confidential access is what I find unethical. A similar argument applies to grant proposals; the US National Science Foundation explicitly forbids reviewers from using or building on unpublished work described in proposals. – JeffE Oct 25 '15 at 20:39

It isn't wrong to request for the code of a paper you refer (after it is accepted for publication). I've provided the code of my algorithm for a few myself upon such requests coming from my readers.

This can be regardless of the fact that you've reviewed the article. But this information can be included in your request as a supporting factor thus indicating your genuineness as you could have asked so during the review.

You may request as soon as the paper is accepted to be published and is available online at least in the open archive as facilitated in some journal publishers.

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    It isn't wrong for a reader of a published paper to request code from the author, but OP is a referee for a yet unpublished paper. The confidentiality of the refereeing process requires that OP either wait for the article to be published or pass an anonymous request through the editor. – JeffE Oct 25 '15 at 16:28
  • @JeffE: I have made the edit accordingly. – Ébe Isaac Oct 26 '15 at 1:33

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