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I've been involved in a paper that got accepted in a journal and has been published. Apparently, the paper has been selected to be part of a 'special edition of the journal'. The first author took the liberty to change the title of the paper and make other 'improvements'. I wonder if this is allowed. It seems wrong to me that an author would make such changes with an excuse that they asked for a 'camera-ready' version. This implies that the previous publication wasn't camera ready and lousy.

Is this normal?

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"Camera ready" is just a colloquialism for the final version, going back to a time when things were literally archived on camera film (in some cases this still happens). It doesn't imply any other version was lousy.

Without knowing why the title was changed or other changes made I can't say if anything was improper. Sometimes journals are picky about titles and require them to follow a certain format. Sometimes journals require changes at the final step before publication to adhere to their style guide. Sometimes authors think these style choices are bad but have to make them anyway to make the journal happy.

Strictly speaking, all changes should be approved by all authors, but in practice a corresponding author may assume their coauthors would be okay with any minor changes, especially ones required by the journal, and not get everyone's approval.

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