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I'm still early in my scientific career, with only a few papers published. However, I've discovered a typo in a non-critical equation of my paper, and one of the graphs in the same paper should have smaller values (but exactly the same trend). It's important to say that it does not change any of the conclusions drawn in the paper. I've requested to issue an erratum to fix these errors.

At the moment, I am feeling extremely stressed and saddened thinking about how bad this erratum would reflect on my CV and in my integrity as a researcher... I would like to hear some opinions of people who have been through this process... Did you notice editors becoming more harsh on accepting other works from you because of a past mistake? Was it possible to still get grants and partnerships in projects even if you have a 'flawed' record?

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    If anything it shows strength of character and will help your career along. But more realistically nobody will notice. – Konrad Rudolph Jun 8 '18 at 13:09
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    @NateEldredge: no, this one is a minor mistake that does not affect the conclusions – smci Jun 8 '18 at 22:29
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    Why do you even bother? Just release an up to date "post print" on arXiv. – Nemo Jun 9 '18 at 13:01
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    In Mathematical Problems for the Next Century, Stephen Smale said: Mistakes happen frequently in published mathematics; I certainly have made my share. Even so, everyone knows that he is a great researcher. I suspect that the same is true in other fields: what you published and is correct can (and probably will if it is relevant enough) affect your career more than the errors. – Pedro Jun 9 '18 at 20:12
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It will not affect you career. You'll be fine.

An erratum is not a bad thing, per se. Errors happen, and if you fix them it's fine. The error you describe are totally normal and I would even guess that a large fraction of published paper contains this type of error and does not have an erratum.

Even a more serious error that invalidates some of your finding will not necessarily have any impact on your career (but in this case you should write an erratum!). A retraction would be more serious, because retraction are associated with misconduct.

Another point is, that most people will not even notice that there is as erratum for one of your papers.

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    "most people will not even notice that there is as erratum for one of your papers." That seems to be a problem if the idea is to correct errors in the paper. – JAB Jun 8 '18 at 15:39
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    @JAB - I don't know about the research field, but if it's anything like standards documents for tech then there are normalized procedures for declaring and validating erratum. The original document remains untouched for historical purposes. If someone depends on the information enough to care about erratum then finding it is simple. – aaaaaa Jun 8 '18 at 16:22
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    Many thanks for your answer. I believe that the hardest part for me is when I compare my track with other researchers that don’t have a single erratum in a very long career. I can’t help but think that this is not a great start for me... Nevertheless, now I will double my acuity and avoid mistakes as such to happen ever again. – J.Doe Jun 8 '18 at 23:45
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Let's put it this way: An erratum describing a serious flaw in the paper may (or may not) have a negative effect on your career, but withholding knowledge of such a flaw will have a much worse effect when people find that out.

Also - it's only a problem if the error is such that you should have noticed it and not published the paper at all. Most errors are only seen as an unfortunate coincidence and do not reflect seriously (or at all) on the authors.

  • Thanks for your answer. Do you think that the error I described could be seen as a serious flaw? Which mistakes would you consider something that “you should’ve noticed and not published the paper at all”? – J.Doe Jun 8 '18 at 23:53
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    @J.Doe: Come on... you know the answer to that. You're a big boy/girl, you don't need my confirmation. – einpoklum Jun 9 '18 at 22:15
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    Hint: typos are not "serious flaws" which mean you should have "not published the paper at all." Pretty much every paper published has at least one typo. – David Richerby Jun 10 '18 at 15:11
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A "real" erratum (of the form "this part of my paper was wrong") will not affect your career unless it is about your most important work being all wrong, and all our prestige depends on that single paper.

This may depend on areas, but I would say that an "erratum" of the kind you mention would not (and should not) be accepted by the editor. There are more important things to use the journal's pages for. If it bothers you a lot, include your "erratum" in your list of publications in your web page.

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