I discovered a minor error (essentially a typo) in one of my recent publications. It would not be noticed by most readers. It does not affect the content of the article and does not require an erratum or corrigendum. According to the editor, it is no longer possible to correct the error. Although many people would ignore the error, I think that there must be a better way to solve the problem.

My preliminary idea is to use Adobe Acrobat Pro DC (or equivalent software) to correct the error and upload it to a professional website or cloud storage service. I could either correct the error outright (which would not draw attention to the change I’ve made) or use the strikeout text tool to correct the error (which would make it obvious what I have changed). On my CV, I would include a hyperlink to the corrected article that I have uploaded. The link could be accompanied by some text indicating that I’m linking to a corrected version of the article, or not.

Finally, because this is an open-access article, I don’t anticipate any copyright issues associated with uploading the article or linking to it on my CV.

What is the best course of action here?

  • 27
    Don't bother about the typo/error. – Mark Mar 19 '18 at 19:35
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    Ignore it. Don't bother. Spend your time on more research instead. A single typo that reviewers didn't notice, don't bother. – Per Alexandersson Mar 19 '18 at 19:35
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    I would conjecture that every single scientific publication has at least one minor error. Go as far back into prehistory, and use as liberal a definition of publication as you want. It's still going to be true, with perhaps five or ten exceptions per millenium. – user37208 Mar 19 '18 at 19:51
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    Seems like, technically, if the editor doesn't approve it and it doesn't go through peer-review, then you can't claim that the corrected version of the paper is peer-reviewed. Definitely a technicality, but kinda a funny one. – Nat Mar 19 '18 at 22:40

What is the best course of action here?

Don’t do anything. The confusion and irritation caused by having a corrected version linked or mentioned in your CV is much worse than the typo itself. Readers of your CV might wonder what exactly you corrected, why this did not happen in the journal version, or why you bother that much about a typo (depending on how you present it). While typos in your CV may be subject to enhanced scrutiny and have an increased impact, typos in papers referenced in your CV usually don’t. Other readers are very likely to read the journal version of the article, so besides your CV your correction benefits only a very small audience.

You can also apply a calculation of time wasted and saved similar to the one in this answer of mine:

  • Supposing that your typo costs the average reader one second.
  • Suppose it takes you five minutes to fix the typo and upload the fixed version.
  • Suppose that readers waste no additional time with being confused about the additional version and downloading it.

Even in this very optimistic calculation, three hundred readers have to read your corrected article to make the endeavour worthwhile.

  • 2
    I'm sure we would agree that people should correct typos on their résumé even if your calculation suggests that it would not be a worthwhile endeavour (not that your calculation was ever intended to be applied this way). Perhaps OP is concerned that others will think less highly of their paper because of a typo, and is less concerned about saving time for the reader. I'm suggesting that OP may have this viewpoint regardless of whether it is a correct viewpoint. If this is the case, then a calculation about saving time is unlikely to be convincing. – Scott Lawson Mar 20 '18 at 6:51
  • @ScottLawson: See my edit. – Wrzlprmft Mar 20 '18 at 7:05
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    @ScottLawson The calculation of whether or not to correct your resume should include the fact that many potential employers will simply throw your resume away for having an error. The "costs" in the calculation don't need to be constrained to the time wasted by the reader trying to understand the error. – Dean MacGregor Mar 20 '18 at 14:25
  • @DeanMacGregor: I did acknowledge that “typos in your CV may be subject to enhanced scrutiny”. Typos in a paper referenced in your CV usually don’t. Links to something other than the journal version on the paper in a CV maybe as bad as typos in the CV. – Wrzlprmft Mar 20 '18 at 19:32
  • @DeanMacGregor I don't disagree with you, but perhaps I could have been more clear in my previous comment. I mentioned résumés as an example of a situation where you fix typos because of perception and not because of time savings. I was trying to make the point that OP might be concerned about perception in a manner analogous to the resume example. – Scott Lawson Mar 20 '18 at 22:31

Post and maintain errata on whatever website best represents your online presence. If you maintain a list of publications, errata can be linked from this list. Examples of findable errata:

Make sure that your name, as used in the publication, the title, as used in the publication, and the word "errata" appear so that those who search will find.

  • This would be an appropriate answer for dealing with an entire list of errors and typos. But an errata page for one specific typo seems sort of strange. – lighthouse keeper Mar 20 '18 at 8:26
  • Pretty sure that in these cases the correction actually changes the information. Those are not just typos. – DSVA Mar 20 '18 at 10:56
  • @lighthousekeeper : If the biggest problem throughout my professional career is that I only make one typo', I have nothing to worry about. (Or, to rephrase: There will be more. Already having a place to put them is a good thing.) – Eric Towers Mar 20 '18 at 14:36
  • @DSVA : from dacox.people.amherst.edu/iva.html#TE : "Typos in the first printing corrected in the second printing:", "Typos present in the first and second printings:". These are collections of errors, whether material or not. – Eric Towers Mar 20 '18 at 14:38

In mathematics what I would do is correct my local copy, and once enough corrections have collected post an update to the arxiv. I've done that one these two old papers where we found various small errors (mostly signs).

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