Importing commentator feedback into a paper?




In our newest “how can we help you?” thread, a reader asks:

I am wondering what the proper thing to do is in the following situation. A person was assigned as a commentator on my paper at a conference, and in their comments they summarized the main argument of my paper in premise form. The form was implicit in my argument, but now that I am revising the paper, I would like to include the argument in premise form. What is the right thing to do around using either their summary, or maybe a slightly altered version. Should I state in a footnote something like ‘thanks to x for suggesting the following formulation’? Should I do that even if I change it somewhat? Or should I just thank them at the end in the acknowledgements and in the places where they suggested a given objection to a part of my argument (I will do both of these either way, of course)? The main thing that is confusing me is that the argument was there already in the original, and so a thing of my making, but not explicitly in premise form, and so a thing of their making. But then if I had gone through the trouble of making it more explicit, then I would have likely arrived at something very similar to their end product. So, what to do?

This is an excellent question. One reader submitted the following reply:

I think it would be nice to thank x for specifically that. Maybe at the argument, add a footnote like “this argument was explicitly formulated first in x’s helpful comments.” This does not imply that you wouldn’t be able to formulate yourself.

I think things are a bit more complicated than this. Even though the argument the commentator placed into premise-conclusion is of your making, the particular formulation of it in premise-conclusion form is (as the OP notes) of their making. So, I think simply taking it and importing it into the paper, even with minor alterations and an acknowledgment, may be a bit dicey. Personally, I think the safe thing to do here would be to simply email the commentator to ask them whether they are okay with you using it, noting that you would of course acknowledge them in the paper for suggesting it. This not only seems to me to be called for as a matter of professional courtesy. You also never know: perhaps if you don’t ask, the person could get upset and lodge some kind of research misconduct (e.g. plagiarism) allegation. This may seem unlikely (and unreasonable), but why chance it when you can just ask them instead before going forward?

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours?


Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More