Field of Science

Proofing The Proof Corrections?

OK...this has happened to me more than once so I would like to comment and hopefully receive some feedback. You send in your final revisions for your manuscript and it is accepted by a journal. Sometime later you receive the proofs with the layout for final publication and a request for you to check it over and correct any final typos and/or problems with the layout. You submit your proposed changes within the time alloted and sometime later the manuscript is finally published. Upon reading through the published manuscript you see where some but not all of the changes you requested in the proofs were made, and thus there may still be some annoying errors (typos and/or layout) that you thought were going to be fixed. I am not talking about major changes being requested (which are costly at the proof stage and thus may not be approved by the editors). Instead this is about small corrections that for some reason were not made.

What do you do next? Of course you can contact the editors and point out were requested corrections were not made, but what does this approach get you? An apology and possibly an erratum in the next issue, but does not fix the actual publication (which is now a permanent record). Maybe it is possible to actually proof the proof corrections? I'm not aware of any journal that does this, but I may start asking.

I guess that hypothetically through the writing, review, and rewriting stages all mistakes should have been eliminated, however, anyone who publishes knows that this is not the case. In fact, the proof stage is one of the most important parts of the whole process because it represents the first time the manuscript has been out of the author's control and as I said earlier it represents the permanent record of your work. Wouldn't you like just one last look before it finally does print? I actually had one manuscript a few years back where we did not even get proofs! The final result was not good and we actually felt obliged to add a disclaimer to the reprints and PDFs that we distributed.

Has anyone else had a problem with this? How common is this type of error?

3 comments:

  1. I haven't had exactly that problem (my corrections not being followed) but I have had errata that I could not see in the proofs.

    My solution is to modify the PDF that I am going to send to my colleages with a PDF editor software (Adobe usually, although sometimes it does not work either).

    I know that this may not like to journals but, if they do not want to implement a process that allows the autors to introduce new small modifications to the final published work (which now should be pretty easy, thanks to modern technology), is the only way you can have a correct layout of your works.

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  2. Manuel, I strongly disagree with your approach. Once an article is published, then the published version has to be set in stone -- otherwise no-one can rely on it saying what it seems to say. You may want to make a minor punctuation tweak to your paper; the next author might want to change a taxonomic conclusion. That way, madness lies. Papers, once published, must be immutable.

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  3. Yes, That was my point. Once the paper is out, it is in its published format forever. Having a proofing the proof step would be nice but then would you need to proof the proof proofing step and so on? Maybe but it would just be restricted to verifying that the requested proof changes were done properly or at all.

    What we did with the 2005 reprint was to put a box at the top of the page(above the title) stating that we never saw proofs. Our problems in that case, however, were mostly with layout.

    Regardless, I would still like a step implemented pre-press verifying all requested changes have been made. Nowadays, with PDFs this can be done in hours.

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