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So, this just happened recently - I and my colleagues were cited in a scientific, peer reviewed paper (our article was published in a scientific journal as well). The author summarizes our findings (to a degree) and then concludes that because of two failures, we compromised the study's validity. However, those two "failures" were correctly addressed in our paper. I guess the author did not bother to read the complete article and, thus, highlighted the supposed "failures" that were accordingly addressed.

I have the e-mail address of the author, but I don't know what good would it do if I explain the situation. I'm not happy with this citation, since it (wrongly) presents our study in a bad light.

Since the article was already published, is there anything we can do? Thanks for suggestions.

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    You might be able to publish a response or a letter to the editor in the new paper's journal, explaining why you think the criticism is not justified. Have you looked into whether the journal allows for this? – Nate Eldredge Jan 6 '17 at 17:08
  • By "failures", are the authors addressing a confound or extraneous factor that you identified as a limitation in your study? – Inde Jan 6 '17 at 21:25
  • I would have to say the latter, however, I even wouldn't go as far as calling it a limitation. What we did and what the author identified as "failure" was backed up with references and it was part of the research design. It was most certainly not a "failure", and when article was peer reviewed, the reviewers even stated that we should back that part of the research with relevant references, which we did. – curiouscat Jan 6 '17 at 22:25
  • So the real issue is the author's unfortunate use of the word "failure" in referencing a limitation you had already addressed? If that's the case, I agree with Nate Eldredge; ask the Editor to publish either a "letter to the editor" or "response to [article reference] to correct the author's erroneous and/or misleading assertion. I've seen this done in several journals, so not unheard of. – Inde Jan 6 '17 at 23:17
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So your study was (by design) limited in scope, they're researching something outside of your scope, and your approach fails to provide a solution in their problem area. It sounds like you and they agree.

Take a close look and see whether they actually said that your study was compromised, or whether you simply got defensive because they said your method failed when they tried to use it.

Your discomfort may be caused by the fact that you've failed to look at it from the perspective and scope of their paper. They have to prove that there's a problem, and that existing approaches (including yours) don't solve that problem, because that motivates the solution they present. If they aren't making any claim that your approach doesn't work within the scope you claimed, then while you may have preferred that they used verbiage such as "Our problem is excluded by the approach described in user67334's groundbreaking work on (other problem)", they didn't.

Instead they used words which are descriptive from the perspective of the problem they're discussing, and since that's a limitation you already explicitly acknowledged, doing so doesn't actually detract from your work in any way.

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If it is a really big issue, perhaps the journal has the possibility of publishing a short letter as a response. But these are rarely found nowadays. In general, the public will have to choose, who to believe - you (since you say that you addressed this topic well) or the criticizing author (presumably other people will read your paper in full. On the other hand, you may be biased and you really did not address the topic sufficiently and many more people will believe the criticism. Do better next time. Usually such things are discovered during the review process, so perhaps the journal did not do good job of choosing the reviewers (which would criticize your insufficient coverage of the problem, and you could then improve the paper in response to them).

  • "choose, who to believe - you (since you say that you addressed this topic well)" - in practice, this can be problematic. Even though the points may be addressed in the original paper, the criticizing paper has the unquestionable advantage that it can refer to the original paper and be specific about statements there, whereas the original paper can just make statements, but not explicitly address the future criticism. – O. R. Mapper Jan 6 '17 at 19:01
  • @O.R.Mapper I agree, most likely nothing can be done now. It is really the job of the reviewers to point out the possible failure points in the article. – xmp125a Jan 6 '17 at 19:05
  • This is certainly hard to read. I agree - the issue was made aware and we have no way to make our case. I can accept the possibility that we really did a mistake. Why I doubt it is, because what the author has stated, was also mentioned by the peers that reviewed the article. As I've already said it: "what the author identified as "failure" was backed up with references and it was part of the research design. It was most certainly not a "failure", and when article was peer reviewed, the reviewers even stated that we should back that part of the research with relevant references, which we did." – curiouscat Jan 6 '17 at 22:28
  • But these are rarely found nowadays. - I would say this depends on the journal. Many journals have some sort of letters/commentary section. – Kimball Jan 7 '17 at 3:38

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