Recently I found a paper that has a number of typographical errors, esp in equations. Should one notify the authors or the publishers on such issues? How do the approach change if the article is somewhat aged?

When should/can one write a 'Comments on ...' article? How different is an Errata and a 'Comments on ...' article?

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    If the original version is, e.g., a badly written proof that is difficult to follow but that can be fixed, one possibility is to write up some kind of informal exposition or review of the same result. You could explain the same result in a survey article, textbook, lecture notes, Wikipedia article, etc. Or your student could write it up as a part of their BSc or MSc thesis on a related topic. This way there would be a more easily accessible version of the old result easily available online. There is no need to draw attention to the errors of the original paper; just offer a new version of it. – Jukka Suomela Sep 27 '12 at 14:54
  • See also academia.stackexchange.com/q/12195/64 – Joel Reyes Noche Aug 27 '13 at 0:37

Here's what I would suggest:

  • First, alert the authors to the issues. Wait to see how they respond, or do not respond. But in all cases, they should be the first you write to.
  • If the issues do not severely impact the correctness of the work or its utility, stop there. It's probably not worth making a fuss about something most readers will either not use, or can easily correct themselves.
  • If you publish something on the topic yourself, especially if you build on the authors' equations or otherwise use them, you should make a note of the issue in your article.
  • Finally, if you believe the issue is important and/or the equations are widely used, you should contact the journal's editor and ask for guidance.

Errata are “authored” by the original authors. Publisher's corrections also exist, when the responsibility for the issue (typo in equation, misprint in figures, etc.) is that of the publisher.

  • Can you add response to the age related aspect in the question, as well? Also, about errata and comment article. – Noble P. Abraham Sep 27 '12 at 0:54

To answer your last question, an errata is always (almost always?) written by the authors of the article, whereas a "Comments on..." article can be written by anyone. However, to write a "Comments on..." article, which in my experience are rare, you must have a substantial new idea. It's not enough to say "I found typos in the original paper".

If the original paper contains a proof that is incorrect, and you have a proof that is correct, that could be enough for a paper. In this case you probably also need to provide counterexamples to the original proof. Similarly, if you can explain why the original data analysis was seriously flawed, and you have correct data analysis, that might be a paper.

  • Thank you for the nice answer. Can "Comments on..." article be published after many years (say more than 10 years) of the original article? Also, please add to the answer, the approach towards typos or minor errors. – Noble P. Abraham Sep 27 '12 at 0:58
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    @NobleP.Abraham This is just my opinion, but (a) "Comments on..." articles can be published any time that you have something worth saying and (b) For typos and minor errors, I recommend that you do nothing. If it's something the average reader can work out, then what "value added" would an article or note offer? – Dan C Sep 27 '12 at 13:37

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