If you were to publish a paper but you made an error in publishing the experimental protocol or parameters, what would happen to the paper? Let's say in this instance that the results of the experiments wouldn't be significantly affected. How would that process work? Would there have to be a retraction? A correction?

  • 1
    Was the experiment actually carried out correctly? Is it just a matter of misstatements in the paper?
    – Buffy
    May 3, 2022 at 23:47
  • The experiment was carried out at slightly different parameters than what was written, as a result of input error. Doing them with the parameters that were written got similar results.
    – 8263xiao
    May 3, 2022 at 23:56
  • Did the experiment involve anything random? Sampling, for example?
    – Buffy
    May 3, 2022 at 23:59
  • The experimental parameter that was affected was wavelength at which excitation and emission were measured. In both cases, they were 5 nm off from what was reported (due to misremembering the correct wavelengths during setup), and doing them at the reported wavelengths didn't affect the outcome of the experiments much at all.
    – 8263xiao
    May 4, 2022 at 0:09
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    May 4, 2022 at 1:13

1 Answer 1


In most such situations there is no need for a correction. If random elements of any kind are involved then the effect of randomness might overcome small changes in parameters. You might be able to analyze that from your data.

If the system is relatively smooth then, again, small changes in inputs result in small output changes.

There are systems, however in which none of that is true. In any chaotic system (weather, for example) small changes can result in large effects.

Another factor to consider, however, is what real world effects might arise from getting it wrong. In some medical systems, say, it is important to be absolutely precise as lives may depend on results.

So, make a judgement call. If small changes result in small effects AND if there are no adverse health/societal impacts for being slightly wrong, then it can probably just slide.

You can also present your case to the publisher of your work and let them decide if a correction needs to be made.

  • And please use a log book or similar careful logging practices during experiments and their setup rather than relying on memory.
    – Carol
    May 4, 2022 at 0:41
  • I see. In this case, the mistaken changes to the parameters were so minor that it had no significant effect on the outcome of the experiment. The reason why the mistake went unnoticed was because the results from each configuration (the ones from the correct configuration and the ones from the incorrect configuration) were indistinguishable from one another such that no alarms were raised.
    – 8263xiao
    May 4, 2022 at 0:42

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