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Summary: My paper was accepted to a journal; I realized they missed a handful of edits (which do not alter the findings or conclusion) and emailed them right after to change these things. They ghosted me for two weeks, posted an unedited version of the article online (not assigned to journal yet) and ghosted me for another two weeks. I spent about 20 hours trying to contact someone from the publisher, including calling offices across the US and the UK, and 30 days in total without contact until just this week. I'm super frustrated/angry. What can I do to get my paper corrected? Should and can I withdraw the paper?

My paper was accepted to a journal I like and have supported in the past with peer reviewing and the like. I am a post-doc. Its my dissertation work so I feel quite wed to it. I signed the authorship agreement once it was accepted - and to be honest had never really thought too critically about these agreements until now. I had some technical issues with the correction proofs, but could not get ahold of anyone for three weeks to assist, and noticed once the edited proof was available, it was missing a handful of edits I had made in the correction/editing process.

This was Nov 8/9 when the proofs were available online for the author (me) to view (and apparently approve).

Immediately, I contacted them:

  • on November 10th - asking them to implement these changes, followed up once after this to the production editor (who I was previously conversing with) and heard nothing.

  • Without any contact, it was e-published on November 28th without the corrections - e.g. available online and not assigned to an issue, but has a DOI.

  • I continued to follow up with the production editors and the editor of the journal. The editor of the journal felt very bad and tried to help me get in touch with the production team. Various secretaries from teh publisher also have tried to help and "escalate" the matter. Outside of this, no contact from any of the production team.

  • I have a log of over 30 attempts to get in touch with someone from the production team over these 30 days. This includes a whirlwind of suggested people I contact, calls, and emails. Throughout this, the editor of the journal has been in touch and apologized for how unreachable the publishing editors have been.

  • Over this final week or so, I have been and am quite frustrated as the lack of contact continued. This is now almost three weeks after it has appeared online. As no one contacted me, I asked the journal editor and publishing team / editors for the article to be withdrawn, and that I no longer wished to work with this publisher. The Journal editor apologized for the lack of continued radio silence.

  • Finally, on Dec 9 I received a response from a contact I received through the chain - someone on the publishing team. Her response was really great, it acknowledged the unprofessionalism of what had occurred, said she would follow up to ensure it didnt happen again, and said she can already see the withdrawal request is being processed, as it should not have gone to the e-print stage without contact, and she would keep me posted.

  • The next morning, Dec 10, another woman contacts me to say she is taking over the case and that it cannot be withdrawn.

  • She said they will work with me to make the edits and issue a correction - however I made clear in an earlier email I was leaving for a personal / mental health leave as of Dec 10, and although I tried to resolve this before then - I no longer wish to move forward. She said since I would be on a leave they would just review my email chain and implement the changes. If I proceeded with the later (though I don't want to) I believe its reasonable that I'd need to look over the entire article, my notes, and the correction proofs in detail to trace all the missed corrections.

  • Is it odd to feel this mistreated by the publisher in this case? I have spent 20+ hours calling and emailing the publishers NY, Philly and UK offices, staying up late at night to try to reach individuals in the UK (I'm in Canada) during work hours, and sourcing new people in the chain to contact.

  • I don't feel they deserve to capitalize on this work considering they essentially ghosted me for 30+ days and proceeded with e-publication without contact. Also, this has caused quite a bit of stress and anxiety which likely elevated my need for a mental health leave - tied into other work/home issues.

  • This is my first publication, but I am leaving academia and don't really care to publish this work right now, so I am inclined to want to stand my ground. I really dont think authors should be treated this way. But this is my only experience, really - is this typically and I just need to deal with it?

My big questions are :

  • is withdrawal ever an option in a case like this where the author feels mistreated and wants to pull the publication? If not, are there any other courses of action that function similarly?

  • Can I leverage the fact that one email said they were already implementing the withdrawal process, only to be rescinded the next day?

  • Do I just edit the paper, spill into my personal leave to sort this?

  • Do I escalate this to a copyright lawyer, if so - do I need to first contact my institution? Should it be the institutions law team or can I hire someone to send a letter? Am I completely bound by the copyright agreement or is there ever a case for authors withdrawing their permission?

  • I write for national newspapers and have a blog on a national media site, is it reasonable to tell them I will work with them on the edits if that is my only option, but I will make it extremely known to my colleagues, networks and social media platforms what this process has been like, and that they proceeded with publication against my wishes?

Thanks for your help.

  • Social media pressure is very effective - lots of « big » institutions react to that faster than individual emails... – Solar Mike Dec 11 '18 at 5:51
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    Any chance to summarize this? – henning Dec 11 '18 at 9:01
  • What was the nature of the missing edits? Are the results or conclusions weakened or invalid without them, or are they mostly cosmetic (typos, grammar, style, clarity, formatting, image quality, minor errors in equations and the like)? – TooTea Dec 11 '18 at 18:07
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    Yes the TL;DR is my paper was accepted to a journal; I realized they missed a handful of edits (which do not alter the findings or conclusion) but I emailed them right after to change these things; they ghosted me for two weeks, posted an unedited version of the article online (not assigned to journal yet) and ghosted me for another two weeks. spent about 20 hours trying to contact someone from publisher, including calling offices across US and UK, and 30 days in total without contact until just this week. Super frustrated/angry with publishers. – Jay Ballerit Dec 12 '18 at 5:27
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    @JayBallerit Maybe push the TL;DR into the main body of your question. Regarding your question, is it plausible that the journal posted the "unedited version...online" as a preprint, rather than the final version? Hence, they expected to replace that preprint with the edited version once it was finished? – user2768 Jan 10 at 14:25
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Depending on your legal jurisdiction, they violated your author's rights of (1) choice of publication date and (2) integrity of the work. It is important to figure out if you agreed to waive these rights (implicitly in terms and conditions or explicitly in a contract). I did not read all the specifics of your previous communication due to length.

If you did not waive your author rights and these rights apply in your jurisdiction [1] you could indicate you're considering legal recourse unless you get a chance to copy-edit your article and provide them with a timeframe to reply. If they don't, you could follow through with it.

This happens frequently and needs to be changed IMO, so it is worth considering the public outreach you're mentioning. Publishers love their copyright and legal frameworks when it comes to sharing articles, so they should also be kept to it in their production processes.

[1] continental Europe has a strong tradition of these, Anglo-Saxon countries like UK and USA less so, I am not knowledgable about other regions

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    In the US, copyright is generally considered to take the place of authorship rights for most things. In this case, it would be necessary to know what OP had signed off on. If OP retains copyright, and had not yet agreed to publication (and check any contract and correspondence to see if it didn't sneak in), the author would have a legal case in the US. Any damages awarded would be insignificant, as (unless the work was registered with the Copyright Office) the OP would have to show actual harm in monetary terms. – David Thornley Dec 11 '18 at 16:57
  • I did sign the standard copyright agreement which grants them copyright, and also agreed to publication. This was before the editing process started. – Jay Ballerit Dec 12 '18 at 5:22
  • What does "violated your author's rights of...choice of publication date" mean? Specifically, when do authors ever get to choose the publication date? – user2768 Jan 10 at 14:28

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