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After a lengthy review process, I finally published my first paper. Unfortunately, upon seeing it in print, I was immediately dismayed.

During the proofing process, formatting errors appeared on the table, presumably as a result of the conversion to the journal's table template. The table in question was supposed to have three 'sub-headings' but was formatted such that two sub-headings appeared different from the other two (bold vs framed between two horizontal lines and capitalized). Amongst other corrections, I brought this up during the proofing process by highlighting that the three sub-headings were formatted differently and to correct it so they were all stylized in the same way. When I was notified of my article being published online, however, I found that the changes to the table were ignored. I sent an email asking what could be done and was informed that although they understood I had certain corrections, that no changes could be made now it was online and instead was offered to publish a corrigendum.

Since these changes are aesthetic and not related to the content, a corrigendum (at least to my understanding) would not change anything to the appearance of the figure as corrigenda are published as a separate note, making a corrigendum not really worth it. At the same time, I'm frustrated that after having put so much time into proofreading the article to ensure no mistakes appeared, that one appeared anyway that had nothing to do with me. I wish I could say it's a minor aesthetic point that only I would notice, but after sending out my article to colleagues and friends I received numerous comments about this particular formatting error.

I suppose I have two questions. First, how cut and dry is the rule of not being able to correct articles once they are published? Or is it simply indicative of a lack of willingness or goodwill on the publisher's part that could, perhaps with some more insistence on my part, give way? And if there really is nothing that can be done, is it worth publishing a corrigendum?

Thanks for any insight you can offer.

EDIT: Looking everything over for the n-th time, I now see a couple other errors (eg. inconsistent capitalization in the legends). The thing is these mistakes were not present in the proofing stage (I have the proof file as proof); they were tacked on after the fact, when it was too late to do anything about it. Is this something I should contact the editor-in-chief about?

EDIT 2: Thanks to all for the feedback and suggestions. I ended up contacting the journal manager, informing her that I would not be requesting a corrigendum but that I would be placing a complaint to the editor-in-chief. I was contacted the next day and informed they would fix all the errors in the article.

EDIT 3: So all the original errors were fixed, however I noticed yet another error was introduced that was absent in the previous version. I'm giving up my crusade for now, and will simply not publish in this journal in the future. Thanks again for all the advice.

  • I have seen publications with versions. They don't explicit exactly what was changed, but you have access to all of them, and I haven't looked deeply for the changes, but seem aesthetic. – Davidmh Jul 27 '16 at 22:27
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    Make your own preprint publicly available and avoid that publisher in the future. – adipro Jul 28 '16 at 11:52
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The publisher is being dishonest when they tell you that nothing can be done now that the paper has appeared online.

The problem is that they failed to make the changes you asked for. This means that the fault is on their end, not yours. They should be responsible for correcting the paper according to your recommendations, and, if necessary, issue a publisher's note indicating that the changes were made as a result of failing to address your corrections.

  • issue a publisher's note; is there a procedure for this? Where do you issue this, @aeismail? – Ébe Isaac Aug 29 '16 at 17:02
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How cut and dry is the rule of not being able to correct articles once they are published?

While nearly all journals are inclined not to make any changes to the content after publication, they do encourage the use of corrigendum or errata (see AMS policy). However, some publishers allow minor changes to formatting with the version of the old publication archived. This can be acceptable as long as the change does not affect the result or conclusion in any way. In your case its just minor formatting changes and it seems fine in this case.

There are some bureaucratic publishers (such as the one you've encountered) who disallow this feature. This would be especially in the case where print versions are involved to preserve the integrity of the article. Or, just to save the time and effort involved in the process. Hence, it is up to the author to make sure that formatting errors are minimized before making the final camera-ready copy of the manuscript before publication.

Is it worth publishing a corrigendum?

In your case, no. Corrigendum is useful for minor content changes, error and grammatical corrections but I haven't yet come across one for defining formatting errors in tables and uniformity in capitalization.

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