It takes a lot of work to publish a paper. There’s the research itself, of course. Then there’s the writing and preparation of the figures for the paper, that are submitted to the journal for publication. Typically, most of the people who contributed to the research are involved in that, so the draft is circulated between at least 2 people, usually many more. There is one author (typically the 1st author, or the PI who is leading the research) who also needs to combine all the comments & changes into one coherent text.
The paper then goes through several rounds of changes, following reviewers’ comments, editor’s comments, final proof-reading etc…
The accepted manuscript (MS) should be “perfect”. But mistakes can happen. Mistakes did happen for three of my recent papers.
For my Cell paper, I have prepared a nice schematic model to summarize the main highlights. It was nice, but we decided it is worth spending money on a professional artist to make a nicer one. Somehow, my scheme was uploaded for the accepted MS, instead of the more artistic one, and this is the one that was eventually published (you can see the artistic version in the blog post about the paper). I found that out after the fact, but since it was just a model, and the only difference was the art, we decided that publishing a correction just wasn’t worth the trouble.
Then, we published a paper in PLOS One. Only after it was published, I noticed that something happened to figure 4. Here it is:
Can you find the error?
Here, we had no choice but to publish a correction.
Recently we published a review paper, in Nature Reviews Molecular Cell biology. We worked very hard with lots of proof-reading and integrating each other’s changes to make sure it is perfect. Then, a few weeks ago, I was looking for some papers which I knew we referenced in that review. Strangely enough, those papers were mis-quoted in our review. Maybe its silly to publish a corrigendum just for a tiny mistake in references. But I think that it is important to keep science as mistake-free as possible, even with those tiny seemingly unimportant mistakes. So we published a corrigendum.
Here is also the place to thank the editors for handling these corrections pleasantly and efficiently.
I’m looking forward for my next corrigendum. What will that be?