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There are several questions on this site about errors in papers and even the errors-erratum tag. I'm specifically thinking of mathematical errors, where there is an unambiguous mistake, like a wrong sign or wrong physical constant. I have come across ~5 of these in the past month.

Is contacting the publisher really the best way to correct these? Sometimes papers are old and it seems unlikely that a new PDF will be generated. Would the academic research community find it useful to have one canonical site that made it very easy to submit errors and corrections. Then, when reading a paper, one could check the site with the DOI or title and see if that paper has an entry. I am considering making such a site, but wanted to check with other academics if it seems like a worthy endeavor, if a site like this already exists, or if there is a reason it does not exist.

I realize this is an opinion question. I know these types of questions get closed, but this is still the best site I can think of to ask the question, so hopefully I get some good replies before this gets downvoted.

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    Is there such a website? and Should there be such a website? are two separate questions, in my opinion. – Enthusiastic Engineer Feb 19 '15 at 21:05
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A site which has some ambitions and potential in this direction is PubPeer, which aims to be a general "online journal club", but which has also become a place to dissect papers for errors and possible fraud, particularly in biomedical areas. It is thus one clearing house for discussing errors in papers.

Interestingly, they also have apparently set up a system that allows you to use a browser plugin to easily dual-post your comments on PubPeer to comments on the paper at the corresponding journal's site, which may also help with putting pressure on editors to actually make corrections...

  • Yes PubPeer is the one I thought of closest to this. But it is limited membership, and since I haven't yet published in one of their journals, I cannot submit comments. – mankoff Feb 19 '15 at 21:08
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    I'm pretty sure that you can comment anonymously... – jakebeal Feb 19 '15 at 21:09
  • YES! Perhaps this is the solution. Previously they did not accept anonymous comments. I cannot make an account though, since I'm not an author on an approved publication. – mankoff Feb 19 '15 at 21:14
  • It is likely to limit false claims/defamation that can cause stigma even if unfounded. I remember an A.SE post where a PhD was stalked by his old reviewer past graduation and criticized for everything. – Compass Feb 19 '15 at 21:47
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    Yes, on that subject, if people want to raise awareness of this site, I encourage them to up-vote its entry in the comunity promotion adds – Cape Code Feb 20 '15 at 17:39
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As far as I know, the journals or publishers which publish a paper accept errors/erratums on their published papers. So, if the errors and mistakes are too problematic, you may look for errors in the journal in which the paper is published. If you can not find such papers on errors of a previously published papers, you may write an erratum on the paper you find errors in. Also, if the errors are minor; such as grammatical mistakes, punctuations, citations, etc. you may write to the editor of the journal or it's publisher and tell them about such minor errors. They may correct such minor errors.

Is there a website to record errors in papers?

If I want to answer your question; I have never seen a journal or website in which the errors of papers are published. But, I have seen journals accepting and publishing erratums on papers they have published before (depending on their policies) which I encourage you to search the journals'/publishers' websites for such papers.

Should there be such a website to record errors in papers?

There are many journals and papers published in every branches of science. That would be a huge work to track errors in the papers. I am not so familiar with website design but I think that there should be very efficient system of moderation in such website. Also because, readers can find erratums on major errors of papers in the websites of the journals or publishers; and minor errors are not that much important to be tracked in a separate website; I personally do not find creating such website productive or helpful.

  • Based on other Q&A on this site, a sign error which introduces a 10% change in a result of an equation is not reason enough to get an Erratum accepted. But it is useful for other readers to know about it. I find errors in old papers too - Either I'm the first (strange), others don't report, or editors don't fix. A new method to list errata may improve the current situation. – mankoff Feb 19 '15 at 21:10
  • @mankoff I think that answers to your question vary based on different opinions. Although I find your idea of creating such website so alluring but I personally do not find such website helpful. This is my idea and it may be wrong. Also, not always users find new and creative ideas helpful or efficient. If you think that your idea does worth giving a try, go ahead and design your website (think perfectly about your idea and design it to work efficiently). If researchers find your website helpful they will use and enjoy the services in your website. Just stick to your dreams and creative ideas. – Enthusiastic Engineer Feb 19 '15 at 21:22
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It's been my experience that electronic journals are much more friendly to correcting errors than traditional, print-based journals. That's because print-space is at a premium and it costs them money to print an erratum to a previously published article. So, in the minds of the traditional publishers, they have to justify the cost of the erratum. Electronic journals, like the one I am the editor for, don't have to worry about that. We can just go into the file, edit the word and save the document and the problem is fixed.

  • The practice of not archiving the original version sounds sketchy to me. All-online journals I'm familiar with keep the original article and publish an erratum. Also, I have never heard of a print journal refusing to publish an erratum for costs reasons. In which field is this happening? – Cape Code Feb 20 '15 at 17:36
  • Many of the Open Access/Digital journals allow the editors and journal managers to maintain a "version history" of the file so that the current/correct version is the one that's on display, but the older version is still accessible. This is not new technology, Sharepoint and some versions of Windows have this ability as well. As for the cost reasons, I'm only going by what I've heard from other authors who had erratum rejected, primarily in the social sciences. – Johnathan Clayborn Feb 20 '15 at 19:19
  • And yes, most electronic journals will still publish an erratum as well, but unlike print versions, they can correct the source file. – Johnathan Clayborn Feb 20 '15 at 19:20

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