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I was recently contacted by a journal editor where they effectively requested that I update my citation database. They said that they came across one of my pre-prints where I reference another pre-print, which has since been published in their journal:

I was interested to see your article [some title] on [pre-print server]. In particular I noticed that you cite another article on [same pre-print server] that has recently been published in [journal that they are editor of].

...

I wondered if you would be able to update your future reference lists to include these citation details in the published version where relevant.

While I'm happy to do so, this seems an odd request to make. It also seems like an issue that would sort itself out (i.e. if I were to cite the article again, I would naturally double-check for correctness and in the process see the published version and update the reference anyway).

Thus my question is: Is this common? How should I respond to this? While the email could conceivably have been generated by an automated script, it appears to have the human touch and be genuine.

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    If that was human-generated, the editor sounds like a colossal busybody with too much time on their hands.
    – Buzz
    Aug 22 at 0:57
  • @Buzz would you mind expanding your thoughts?
    – EarlGrey
    Aug 22 at 11:19

2 Answers 2

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I'm assuming this is a reputable journal and editor (if not, I'd ignore it). In my experience (in pure math, where we emphasize citations less that some other fields), this is not normal at all and would immediately lower my impression of this journal (and possibly the editor, though the editor may be acting on instructions from the journal).

That said, I'd still be polite, and say something like:

Thanks for the update. I'll update that citation when I make revisions.

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  • I haven't encountered this in physics either. On the other hand, one is typically asked during production to update preprint references to their published versions, if available.
    – Anyon
    Aug 22 at 3:15
  • @Kimball Thanks, this confirms the response I had in mind. Good to know this seemingly unusual (if not completely innocuous) request is not common.
    – Greenstick
    Aug 22 at 3:58
  • @Anyon This is in reference to a reputable physics journal.
    – Greenstick
    Aug 22 at 4:00
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Documents are called pre-print for a reason. If you cite a pre-print, it means you cite something written in the internet, without any peer-review but only a marginal control on the author (speaking about authority principle).

If I were an editor, I would try to replace all pre-print with published, peer-reviewed papers, for the sake of science and to avoid propagation of pre-prints instead of peer-reviewed papers.

The fact that the editor contacts you about a paper of their own interest: you already gave your knowledge to them for (their) profit, be happy that they are providing some kind of helpful service!

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    – cag51
    Aug 25 at 19:37

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