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I have a paper which is accepted without any minor or major revisions in a good journal (lucky me). It is fully published. Since I had no chance to revise it, many small mistakes slipped into the proof. During proofreading I tried my best to catch any mistake and correct it. But these were two problems: 1) There were too many small mistakes so at least one of them slided my attention. 2) I couldn't ask the copy-editor to remove a whole "sentence".

If I had the chance to revise it, I would easily fix that up. But now the erroneous sentence is there in my beloved paper. It is now fully published (as online and hard copy). I am tempted to send a corrigendum on that paper, saying that the line is incorrect and should not be there. But on the other hand am afraid that it would make my paper look not-perfect or even ugly.

Do you suggest me sending a corrigendum? Or should I wait until someone notices that and writes a letter to the editor and then I answer in a reply to that letter, saying that "yes you are right, that sentence should not be there in the first place"? And if no one noticed that, I leave that error alone.

Which other ideas do you have about this?

Thanks a lot.

  • 3
    does the error affect your results or conclusion in any way? Does it prevent anyone from repeating the work and ending up with the same conclusion? – Carl May 31 '13 at 9:27
  • 1
    Thanks. Fortunately no. I have stated some method of measurement incorrectly. I have stated the routine method for measuring something, while we had actually used another method (which is again common). The original method is as well reported some paragraphs above!! Existence of that sentence would not damage any results or conclusions at all, but does not accord with reality and also with the original method which is reported in a couple of paragraphs above!! This is what I am concerned about. So what do you think? I might ask the same from journal's editor too. But would appreciate ideas. – Vic May 31 '13 at 9:42
  • And no it does not prevent anyone from repeating the work. That measurement can be done in any of the two ways (both reported in my paper!). And both would give the same result. – Vic May 31 '13 at 9:43
  • You know, reading it again I saw I have not even suggested that incorrect method as something "used" in our study. Although it might incorrectly imply so, but the sentence is written in a way that it is not indicative of the "use" of the incorrect method by us. So I think I should leave it, as it has no harm. Not even incorrect. – Vic May 31 '13 at 10:08
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Given your clarifications 1, 2, and 3, I would suggest leaving it alone.

The modern trend is for the corrigenda and the errata to be used more for "serious" stuff, and less so for "cosmetic" changes. The guideline, for example, given by the American Physiological Society is:

if the author determines that it is scientifically necessary

While Nature uses the following definition for a corrigendum:

Corrigendum. Notification of an important error made by the author(s) that affects the publication record or the scientific integrity of the paper, or the reputation of the authors or the journal.

Unless the venue in which you published your work states otherwise in their publication guidelines, a stray sentence that is not factually false, does not invalidate your claims, and does not impinge on the efforts of other researchers to reproduce your work is likely not "scientifically necessary."

Even if you insist on perfection, you should also be aware how corrigenda are viewed by other researchers in your field. If in your field the prevailing view is that corrigenda are used for "scientifically necessary" changes to your article, then you need to be prepared to answer questions about your correction in the future (usually of the form, "Why is there a corrigendum issued for your paper? Are you sure it doesn't change your conclusions?")

Lastly, a minor point is that if you published in a journal which charges publication fees, quite often your corrigendum will come with a not-so-small price-tag also.

  • 2
    Many thanks. That made my day! Actually it is trivial but I am perfectionist and that sentence sounds stupid in the middle of a good paper (so a threat to my own reputation and also for the journal's rep)(of course a tiny trivial threat). On the other hand, it is so small that a corrigendum would be a waste of one paper. But about the reputation of the journal, I am not sure. I don't know if a small error affects reputation of the journal or not. A small error that nobody has recognized thus far (my colleagues, editors, reviewers [it is accepted as is])... – Vic May 31 '13 at 13:44
  • Maybe I can email the editor and talk to him and ask him does he consider this sentence a small unimportant error or should I send a corrigendum? About the fee, no the journal charges no fees at all. So a corrigendum would not hurt my pocket. :) – Vic May 31 '13 at 13:47
  • This journal publishes so rapidly and is very busy. They receive tons of manuscript. So I am confident many other published papers might have such small issues (especially those few which are accepted as is). – Vic May 31 '13 at 13:48

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