How to publish if a mistake is found in a paper

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  • #1
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I found a mistake in one paper. It is not only a lapse, but it changes and anihilates meaning of the paper. How to publish this? In the same journal as a addenda, (because it can remark in short.)? Or it should be published as pa article in this or in another journal?
 

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  • #2
Vanadium 50
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Is it possible that you are the one making the mistake?
 
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  • #3
Drakkith
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If nothing else I would say contact the journal and see what they have to say.
 
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  • #4
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Is it possible that you are the one making the mistake?
No, I am not the only one who makes mistakes. :)

But, is it possible that addenda is given by a person, who is not an author? The problem is also, because such "errata" is very short, it cannot built the whole structure of a paper.
 
  • #5
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"If nothing else I would say contact the journal and see what they have to say."
Yes, I will ask at the journal, but before I ask still for some your opinions.

But, once ago I asked here about one mistake (lapse) about one paper in arXiv. The answer was, that this is not a mistake. But an author of the paper confirmed that this is a mistake.
 
  • #6
ZapperZ
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This can't be answered without knowing the nature of the mistake.

If it is a typographical error, or if this was simply a honest error, then contact the editor or the author. Journals often publish corrections.

But if this is a mistake in a derivation, analysis, conclusion, then you write a rebuttal to the paper and send it to the journal. Read and understand the rebuttal paper policy of that journal, because it often has a stringent restriction, especially on its length.

If I were you, I would double check with someone else, preferably another expert in the same area, to verify that this is truly a mistake.

Zz.
 
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  • #7
Choppy
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Normally if you believe that you have found a substantial error - "substantial" meaning that the conclusions would somehow need to be changed or that the readership of the journal would benefit from being aware of - what you can do is write a letter to the editor of the journal. You reference the paper, and bring forth your concern and demonstrate how the results change with this new information.

Usually the journal will contact the authors and give them a change to respond. In some cases they may simply decide to publish an errata. In other cases they may simply respond to your concern in a rebuttal to your letter, both of which are published, and are often themselves subject to peer review, if only by the editor.

Another option is simply to write another paper of your own that results in a different conclusion. You might choose this option if the particular paper is heavily cited or of other authors have made similar mistakes or if the mistake is one that has otherwise worked its way into the field.

EDIT: ZapperZ posted while I was writing.
 
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I am a bit surprised by the replies so far. Contacting the authors of the paper in question about their possible mistake seemed such an obvious step to take to me ...
 
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  • #9
ZapperZ
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I am a bit surprised by the replies so far. Contacting the authors of the paper in question about their possible mistake seemed such an obvious step to take to me ...
That was one of my suggestion. So why are you "surprised" by the replies so far? Again, it depends on the nature of the error. If it is a significant error in analysis etc., then it is perfectly valid to publish a rebuttal.

Besides, someone may want to contact the journal editors first if that person wants to remain anonymous, for whatever reason.

Zz.
 
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  • #10
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That was one of my suggestion. So why are you "surprised" by the replies so far? Again, it depends on the nature of the error. If it is a significant error in analysis etc., then it is perfectly valid to publish a rebuttal.

Besides, someone may want to contact the journal editors first if that person wants to remain anonymous, for whatever reason.
As I said: Contacting the authors seems so obvious to me that I wouldn't come up with the idea to contact the publisher or flat-out write a paper. Irrespective of the type of error (except for typos, in which case "don't bother with anything" may be appropriate). The authors are the one who presumably made a mistake. They have thought about the topic for some time. They are experts in the field. And rumors are that some scientists publishing papers are actually interested in the topic and discussion about it. Of course one may imagine scenarios where one would not want to do this. But in my opinion the desire to publish something (which was indicated in the first post) and the desire to remain anonymous tend not to go well with another.
 
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  • #11
ZapperZ
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As I said: Contacting the authors seems so obvious to me that I wouldn't come up with the idea to contact the publisher or flat-out write a paper. Irrespective of the type of error (except for typos, in which case "don't bother with anything" may be appropriate). The authors are the one who presumably made a mistake. They have thought about the topic for some time. They are experts in the field. And rumors are that some scientists publishing papers are actually interested in the topic and discussion about it. Of course one may imagine scenarios where one would not want to do this. But in my opinion the desire to publish something (which was indicated in the first post) and the desire to remain anonymous tend not to go well with another.
Read, for example, the Schon debacle. A couple of experts in the field contacted the editors of Nature and Science first to inquire about discrepancies they found in several of his papers. The nature of the inquiries remained private, but only later, upon their permission, did we found out who they were.

Read PRL. There have been several rebuttal papers on possible errors in the analysis of many papers. One can easily look at the most recent example from BICEP2 paper, where the error in analysis/conclusion is addressed in a separate paper. There are many more examples of that!

Zz.
 
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  • #12
George Jones
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When I was a student, I read a paper in the Journal of Mathematical Physics that claimed the standard results (e.g., in Jackson) for Thomas precession were wrong by an additional angle ##\phi##. My supervisor and I worked through the paper, found some mistakes, and sent a heads-up correspondence to the author. The author then published an Erratum in which he wrote

"The additional angle ##\phi## identified in Ref. 1 was unfortunately calculated incorrectly in Ref.1. There is an algebraic error following ..."

In the Erratum, the author then produced another, more complicated, expression for the additional angle ##\phi##. We then published a paper showing that the new complicated expression was indeed correct, and that the new complicated expression was congruently zero in all cases, i.e., there was no correction factor!
 
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  • #13
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Let us assume that a mistake is clear and conclusion of the paper is wrong. Is it expected that the rebuttal will be published, or they can answer that the mistake is so clear that everyone can notice it? If mistake is 15 years old, is it too old? The paper was referenced once, but the mistake was not warned.
 
  • #14
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Let us assume that a mistake is clear and conclusion of the paper is wrong. Is it expected that the rebuttal will be published, or they can answer that the mistake is so clear that everyone can notice it? If mistake is 15 years old, is it too old? The paper was referenced once, but the mistake was not warned.
The journal editor will decide whether to publish a letter that draws into question the conclusion of an earlier published paper. If in 15 years, the paper has only been cited once, it likely won't be a high priority either way.
 
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  • #15
Student100
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Let us assume that a mistake is clear and conclusion of the paper is wrong. Is it expected that the rebuttal will be published, or they can answer that the mistake is so clear that everyone can notice it? If mistake is 15 years old, is it too old? The paper was referenced once, but the mistake was not warned.
Did you check the author who cited it? You may be 15 years too late to call out the error.

Otherwise, if the paper is 15 years old, and has been cited a grand total of once, it's doubtful anyone cares.
 
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  • #16
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The author who cited it was cited a lot of times. The paper with mistake is evident in arXiv. So it is not important, how old is.
 
  • #17
ZapperZ
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The author who cited it was cited a lot of times. The paper with mistake is evident in arXiv. So it is not important, how old is.
I don't know why this is dragging on, still.

If you think the error is substantial, then WRITE A REBUTTAL! Check the journal policy on rebuttals, such as how long it can be.

However, I strongly suggest you do a thorough citation search first to make sure no one else has written about it.

Zz.
 
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  • #18
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Rebuttal is written. No one else have written it. According to referee's answer, I estimate that it is 60/40 probability that it will be published. But he has the above doubt ... So I think about my chances in second resending.
 
  • #19
ZapperZ
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Rebuttal is written. No one else have written it. According to referee's answer, I estimate that it is 60/40 probability that it will be published. But he has the above doubt ... So I think about my chances in second resending.
What "above doubt"? You have stated nothing about the nature of the referee's feedback, other than mentioning how many times the original paper has been published and how long ago it was.

Zz.
 
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  • #20
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The final decision was that the mistake is such that every physicist with enough knowledge can found it. And that number of references is only moderate. They do not have some shorter format for rebuttals.

What I can do now?
Can I send this to another journal?
Can I sent it to arXiv? How to obtain an endorser for it, (general physics or quantum physics)? Is arXiv also uninterested in revealing of simple mistakes? (but this is not a lapse, because the conclusion is wrong.)
 
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  • #21
Choppy
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It sounds like your answer lies in what you posted. The editors or referees felt that the error was not significant enough to warrant addressing directly. In some cases an error becomes blatantly obvious. Some journals will print a correction in these cases. Sometimes they just let it go because they judge the error inconsequential, which is likely the case here.

If you want to publish it in another journal, you would essentially have to write a paper and include a justification of why the error is important and warrants correction. And as a scientist, you would have to balance that against the other projects you're working on. Of this issue is important enough to you that you need to take time away from your work, then got for it. If not, then in the words of Princess Elsa: "Let it go."
 
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  • #22
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"Sometimes they just let it go because they judge the error inconsequential, which is likely the case here."
What do you think by "inconsenquential" (unimportant)? The article is completely wrong because of this error.

How to find an endorser in "general physics"? No one answers to the letters.
 
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  • #23
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"Sometimes they just let it go because they judge the error inconsequential, which is likely the case here."
What do you think by "inconsenquential" (unimportant)? The article is completely wrong because of this error.
The editors clearly disagree with you.

Have you contacted the authors of the paper at all?
 
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  • #24
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The editors clearly disagree with you.

Have you contacted the authors of the paper at all?
Referee disagrees in what? He AGREES that the mistake in the paper is clear.

I have not contacted with the authors, because I wish to have a published rebuttal.
Sometimes I send information about lapses to some authors, but I have nothing because of this. But here is not a lapse, the whole idea of the paper is wrong.
 
  • #25
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Remember, the ArXiV is a pre-print server. There is no obligation for the data and content in the papers to be the most recent to publishing. Many times there are last minute corrections to a paper, usually something the referee mentions, that is changed, then gets published in the proper journal correctly, but the authors never bother to update their arxiv submission. So always look at the published work, not just the Arxiv.

Maybe you are reticent to mention the exact article, but if you feel like a second set of eyes might help please PM me the link. If you don't have access to the fully published one for some reason and are just looking at the arxiv, then I can also check out the full result.

Also check to make sure there arent errata already.

But if its for sure a mistake, sometimes you let the author know. They will probably give you a mention in the errata. But I don't think its too common to publish the rebuttal if its merely correcting an error, even if it ruins the entire paper. Maybe I'm wrong.
 
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