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What's the best way to make corrections to a published paper? Should I amend the original paper and mention in a footnote (or similar) what was changed and why or prepare a completely separate document and put that on my website/append it to the original paper?

I'm not so much worried about how to get it to the publishers that handle the paper, but rather about how to go about it. I would especially like to hear from people who have done something like that or know someone who did.

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It depends on what the error is.

  • If the error is the publisher's fault—for instance, if they failed to make a correction you specified in the proofs—then they have an obligation to correct the error. In that case, an email to the editors alerting them of the problem, along with some documentation of the original list of corrections, usually suffices to get the problem fixed. (This will usually be accompanied by a "publisher's note" alerting the reader to the correction, although the original article will usually be updated to provide the correct information.)

  • If the error is something discovered after publication, then the best way to fix this is to prepare a short comment detailing the error, the correction, and its implications on your work. The resulting item is then submitted to the journal as a "comment" (or, in some cases, an "erratum," if the journal offers that as a submission option). In this sense, it is like any other comment on a paper.

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    Will the publisher usually link these documents, i.e. will the errata be easy to find/access from the original articles website? – Raphael Aug 1 '14 at 8:35
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    This will of course depend on each publisher, but they're getting better at this sort of thing. For example, here is a recent example of a paper that's had an erratum (really a "correction") issued. You can see that there is a link to the correction right off of the "search results" page, rather than having to click through to the article. Again, not all journals behave this way, but it's definitely improving. – aeismail Aug 1 '14 at 8:57
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What's the best way to make corrections to a published paper?

Although it isn't clear what the "best way" is, I am fairly certain that it is not the standard approaches that are currently used (e.g. as described in aesmail's answer).

PLOS enables authors and readers to post notes, comments, and corrections on published articles. Corrections can be either minor or major corrections, and are reviewed by PLOS staff.

I think that this is a step in the right direction, and by lowering the bar for publishing a correction will hopefully promote better science.

  • I would agree that in an ideal world, your suggestions would be better. However, in the current publishing environment, it's generally not possible. – aeismail Mar 4 '12 at 0:57
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Journals oftentimes make their procedures regarding varying types of corrections available on their website (e.g., Nature). I would speak with the journal and see what their preferred methodology is. This way, you can have the correction listed alongside the original publication, which would maximize the visibility of the correction. Almost no one reading your paper will check your personal website to see if corrections have been posted there.

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