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When is it safe to assume that important theorems in a paper you're referencing are valid? I have a paper in a field in which I am not an expert, so could only check their proofs after months or years of studying other papers which too require their own prerequisites. How do professionals handle this? Is there some feature on journal or indexing sites that indicate that a paper is likely valid?


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One would usually try asking an expert about things in which s/he is not an expert in... – J. M. Apr 17 '12 at 19:01
Note that there is a nonzero probability that a paper might still contain a few errors, even after being refereed. – J. M. Apr 17 '12 at 19:02
Its credibility goes up when better people in the same field cite it and provide an alternative proof. – Henry Apr 17 '12 at 19:09
If it's in an important magazine, other professionals have had a look, so you can be fairly sure years of study won't help reliability. – akkkk Apr 17 '12 at 19:22
A paper never published in a mathematics journal might be more suspect. A paper never reviewed in MathSciNet also. – GEdgar Apr 17 '12 at 19:35
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Candidly, this is potentially a serious problem. Journals these days specifically deny that the referee is responsible for certifying "correctness", saying that it is the author's responsibility, etc.

The real point is that unless/until a result is in some way controversial, scandalous, "important", no one cares at all. As in "whatever".

Needing citations to more prestigious journals is safer in that the results had some other cachet, some claim-to-fame, so were probably doubted/vetted by people more than papers appearing in even the most solid "second" journals. In the latter, or "in life", innocuous things are left alone... and/but if an innocuous thing proves to have some scandalous outcome (your paper?), it will be revisited.

Oop, then no amount of prior passive vetting would be sufficient...?

Or "there are no rules". Being persuasive, solid, is obviously the issue. Published papers are often wrong, and most often that is irrelevant to everything else in the world.

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You can try searching for the paper(s) in Google Scholar. Each individual result shows how many papers cite it, if it was cited. I am not sure how broad Google's article data is so your mileage may vary.

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