Is it common to send an updated manuscript to a publisher before the initial referees' report, if you have fixed a number of typos and ambiguities in the meantime?

EDIT: By fixing ambiguities, I mean for example writing down definitions that were previously just implied, or adding short examples every here and there. That is, I think the changes I made are likely to help the referee understanding the manuscript. The manuscript is on a mathematical subject.

  • if they are not groundbreaking, the refrees are more likely to ignore them while deciding, but they will point out at the feedback. – padawan Apr 8 '17 at 11:54
  • See edited question. By "fixing ambiguities", I actually meant more than just replacing single letters or words – Bananach Apr 8 '17 at 11:57
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    Is it a journal paper or conference paper? If conference paper, then you cannot alter after the submission deadline. Otherwise, I think it is OK if you change a few things before the reviewing process started. – padawan Apr 8 '17 at 12:01
  • it's for the proceedings of a conference – Bananach Apr 8 '17 at 12:03

There is nothing you can typically do during review -- the reviewers have received their copy of the manuscript that they were asked to review, and as an editor I would leave it at that even if I got an updated version. My response (in different words) to the author would have been "Well, these are things you should have thought about before submitting the paper."

But assuming the first version wasn't terrible, you will get the opportunity to roll your changes into any revisions you make in response to the reviewer comments.

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  • I agree. Whether conference or journal, what's done is done. The exception is to fix typos after providing camera ready copy, at the discretion of the publisher. – Fred Douglis Apr 8 '17 at 12:12
  • @FredDouglis I disagree. It's probably not worth it in a conference paper but, if you notice a problem with a journal submission, it's certainly possible to submit a revised version. There's no point unless the error would cause actual problems for the referees but why waste the referees' time by making them try to figure out something that you already know is wrong and already know how to fix. – David Richerby Apr 8 '17 at 15:24
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    @DavidRicherby , As an editor, I don't know that I would accept an update once it was in review. I think it speaks badly of the work. – Fred Douglis Apr 8 '17 at 15:48
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    @FredDouglis I'm confused. Isn't the goal to increase human understanding by disseminating high-quality papers? You seem to be operating as if the goal is to grade the submitted manuscript as if it were an exam. I've reviewed at least one paper where, after a couple of months, I've received a new version from the editor because another reviewer had asked (via the editors) the authors to clarify something they couldn't understand and the authors' response was, essentially, "Oops, you can't understand it because it's wrong. Here's a fixed version." – David Richerby Apr 8 '17 at 15:53
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    @DavidRicherby, I think it's at the discretion of the editor. Generally my experience is not that a reviewer goes back to the authors to ask for explanation. They review the paper as provided, and if there's an issue, they reject it. With journals, they can usually be sent back for "major revision" and that's the time to fix things. But if it's totally bogus, it may result in outright rejection, and they don't get the chance. Anyway, I've been an EIC and I've served as assoc. editor for ~100 articles. Never seen update in place. – Fred Douglis Apr 8 '17 at 18:38

I think there's room for negotiation, or for a query.

Write the editor describing the changes. Note that they improve readability but don't really affect the results (assuming that's the case). Do apologize for not having caught typos before submission.

Then ask the editor whether s/he wants to send the revised version out, or wait. If the papers went to referees just a little while ago they may not have started work and the editor may decide to send on the revisions. It's the editor's call.

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