# Other How to publish if a mistake is found in a paper

1. Aug 5, 2015

### exponent137

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?

2. Aug 5, 2015

### Vanadium 50

Staff Emeritus
Is it possible that you are the one making the mistake?

3. Aug 5, 2015

### Drakkith

Staff Emeritus
If nothing else I would say contact the journal and see what they have to say.

4. Aug 5, 2015

### exponent137

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. Aug 5, 2015

### exponent137

"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. Aug 5, 2015

### ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
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.

7. Aug 5, 2015

### Choppy

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.

8. Aug 5, 2015

### Timo

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 ...

9. Aug 5, 2015

### ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
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.

10. Aug 5, 2015

### Timo

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.

11. Aug 5, 2015

### ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
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.

12. Aug 5, 2015

### George Jones

Staff Emeritus
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!

13. Dec 29, 2015

### exponent137

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. Dec 29, 2015

### Choppy

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.

15. Dec 29, 2015

### Student100

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.

16. Dec 30, 2015

### exponent137

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. Dec 30, 2015

### ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
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.

18. Dec 30, 2015

### exponent137

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. Dec 30, 2015

### ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
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.

20. Feb 14, 2016

### exponent137

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.)

Last edited: Feb 14, 2016
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