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I recently read a paper that was full of small errors that should have been pointed out during peer review but very obviously hadn't. Issues like the following

  • insufficient information in the methods and material section, the lack of information is substantial enough to prevent anyone from recreating the presented research
  • missing info and labeling in graphs and figures that was only provided in the text
  • incomplete or partly omitted results
  • other similar small errors that do not take away from a general understandability of the publication but are nevertheless noticable

There are a lot of questions concerning what to do when finding smaller errors in ones own paper after publication, but what if you find such errors in other peoples papers?

I can think of several scenarios:

  • do nothing and forget about it as it isn't my paper nor my journal
  • contact the editor of the journal about it, but would they even care or react to such a claim?
  • contact the authors about it / inquire with the authors about missing information
  • possible other scenarios

but am unsure which would be the best course of action.

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  • Does this particular journal ever print corrections? If not, your time spent sending them any suggested edits might be (insert ribald metaphor for waste here).
    – Boba Fit
    Mar 24, 2023 at 13:37

1 Answer 1

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First of all, good job reading your papers so critically. Second: welcome to the academic literature. I get the impression that the things you describe are more about readability than about the actual scientific content or correctness of the work. Are they irritating and annoying? Yes. Should you report them? Probably not.

In my case, I would take this as an opportunity to improve my own work. You have now seen what you don't like, and what doesn't work, so do it differently yourself whenever you publish a paper. When you are a reviewer, note these things that the reviewers apparently missed. Note however, that strictly speaking it is a reviewer's job to check if the scientific conclusions stand, if the experiments are well controlled and well performed and if the interpretations are correct. I have the impression that In The Olden Days editors at the journals had much more eye and time to devote to also making sure that the text and figures were well readable. It is not really a job for unpaid reviewers to essentially also act as copy editors - although I am with you here: I always point out mislabeling of figures or small things that might improve a legend.

Of course what you can do is use other means available to share your post-publication review (even a comment section on the journal website). But be careful that you don't accuse people of sloppy work when there are no actual mistakes in there that need fixing. You can be critical but unless there is something actually wrong with the data make sure that you phrase things carefully and in a professional, civil manner.

Also note that there are often journal policies that prevent authors from writing long detailed methods sections in the published version (although nowadays there is ample room somewhere online to still include more details, not everybody does). If you want to repeat experiments and can't from the methods, then it is of course perfectly fine to contact the authors and ask them for a more detailed protocol. If they are good academic citizens they might be willing to share.

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