I have published a paper from my PhD work early in this year and now I find an unintentional mistake in my paper. This mistake was made in a figure where in the Y-axis I have showed expression of one molecule in cells (which can vary) in 10 to the power 3 scale instead of 10 to the power 2. The discussion about that figure does not change at all due to this mistake.

Moreover, in another figure where I compare the expression of that molecule is correct. Now, I have completed my defense and will submit my PhD thesis with this mistake. My professor is very harsh and I can not tell him about this mistake.

Though it does not change anything in that specific figure and final conclusion of my result, I just can not sit calmly. Is this mistake destroy all my efforts that I have done last 4 years?


2 Answers 2


As Ethan said in an ideal situation you could notify your PI, make this simple correction and move on BUT we do not live in an ideal world. You said your PI is "harsh". I can't quantify that but if you think this mistake would postpone or derail you completing the program then I would suggest sitting on it until you have all of your signatures and are ready to graduate. The mistake doesn't change any of your results, made it past your PI and peer review it is not worth the headache while you are approaching completion. You can contact the journal at a later date to submit a corrected figure. At that time you may have to get your co-authors to approve the change or the editor could just accept it. Congrats on the paper and graduation. Welcome to academia!


Take a deep breath. This is not the kind of mistake that can destroy four years of work.

The journal may have a way to provide a correction if the paper is available on line.

If you had found the mistake only after your degree was final that would be all the answer you need. Since you noticed after publication but before you are finished, the natural thing to do would be to ask your professor. Any reasonable one would accept it as an honest error. I can't address what your advisor would do if you told him about the error. In my opinion he is partly responsible - he should have carefully reviewed your submission.

  • Thank you for your kind suggestion.
    – Ahmed
    Commented Dec 26, 2023 at 1:37

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