After publishing a paper even with multiple proofreading and rerun the experiment, there is a feeling of "I should improve this" or "this section is so vague, I should explain more" or maybe the worst is when spotting an unintentional error in a graph or data.

Is it ethical If I make some kind of blog or extension about the paper that critique or extend my own work? I don't want to write the extension in journal though because there is still a lot of work to be done for the next paper.

My fear is it can backfire me instead, if I show what I thought a minor error then the editor or someone read that and try to retract my paper. Or it will become a judgement of my poor work.

  • I do not see how there is any ethical component to this question. – Spiny Mar 2 '18 at 12:07
  • I am afraid that it will be an insult to my adviser or reviewer (eg. I critique adviser work) or (eg. this journal ignores this weakness in the paper). – persona Mar 2 '18 at 16:01

In short: no, there's no need for that.

Minor errors, like typos, erroneous labeling, coloring and such, sometimes happen and are not a big problem; think of them as printer's devils. If you think that some parts of the paper could be written better (everything always can be done better!), but the paper got accepted, than don't strain yourself on it - it was peer reviewed after all.

If you found something like wrong numbers put in a table, or a formula with an error (but used the correct ones in the research, so the mistake is only in exposition), then you can write an erratum and point out that

Fortunately, this was only a typing error, and as such it does not affect any results published in XXX.

Examples of minor corrections:

Examples of major, yet not crucial corrections:

In a more serious case:

If you found that your analysis is flawed, e.g. claimed that X can be used to predict Y, but eventually learnt that it is impossible and the conclusions of the work are wrong, then you should contact the editor, explain in detail what happened and ask what's the preferred course of action. Maybe you'll be advised to write a comment to be published in the same journal, or indeed the editor might decide to retract the work. But this is then the editor's work to decide what's best.


Additional reading:

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  • 1
    No, it is not ok? No, it is not ethical? – Andrés E. Caicedo Mar 2 '18 at 4:06
  • I agree about that, thanks for the explanation. – persona Mar 2 '18 at 16:13

Surely it must be "ethical" to critique one's own work, with hindsight.

On another hand, the contemporary style absolutely does not require it, and, unless your already-published work contains serious errors, probably no one will be terribly interested in minor tweaks or improvements (especially so in the competitive peer-reviewed-publish-or-perish game).

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  • I agree that it is ethical if it is my own work. But the problem is, it is also my co-author and my adviser work. Is it ethical that I made a blog that contains critics about our work? I also agree that maybe nobody will read it anyway. But this writing will be fun. I found that before publishing, we made a lot of argument to support our claim. After the paper is already published, sometimes I found that the claim is too strong or some of the argument is dumb. I just think that It will be a better world if any author can have a final honest comment about their research. – persona Mar 2 '18 at 16:28
  • Yes, all-other-things-the-same, honest comments about one's own work is surely good. But it is more complicated if you have co-authors, especially if senior to you. You might want to write the thing privately, show it to them, and ask if they'd mind your making it somewhat public. This would be polite, for sure. – paul garrett Mar 2 '18 at 19:48

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