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Corrections and Retractions

While errors in the publication record should be avoided if possible prior to publishing, journals should be proactive about implementing a policy to address potential corrections or retractions.

Necessity for corrections and retractions can arise from a number of sources, including:

  • Error within the publication process
  • Author request
  • Report by reader or external party

Terminology and classification varies, but to help start the policy development conversation, it may be helpful to sort corrections and retractions into 3 major categories:

  • Minor Corrections: small errors that do not substantially change the content of the published work. For example: typos, metadata errors.
  • Substantive Corrections: meaningful errors that impact the content. For example: addition or removal of meaningful sentences / paragraphs, changes to figures or data.
  • Retractions: take-down of entire works (partial retractions should be avoided, and treated as a substantive correction). Consult COPE Retraction Guidelines for more details.

Errata #

Errata are the most common form of correction to a published work. An erratum is published when the change to the original publication affects the article’s metadata or the article text’s meaning. Typically when an erratum is published, the original article is updated to reflect the change when possible.

The process of publishing an erratum and then correcting the original is:

  • The erratum should have a title that indicates it is a correction and includes the full citation of the original article. Be sure to include the DOI of the original article in the citation.

For example:

Correction to: Edgar, B. D., & Willinsky, J. (2010). A Survey of the Scholarly Journals Using Open Journal Systems. OJS På Dansk, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.7146/ojssb.v1i1.2707

OR

Erratum to Edgar, B. D., & Willinsky, J. (2010). A Survey of the Scholarly Journals Using Open Journal Systems. OJS På Dansk, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.7146/ojssb.v1i1.2707

  • The main text of the erratum will describe the correction (what has been changed and, if you feel it is applicable, how the error occurred) and state that the original has been updated to reflect the change.

In Edgar, B. D., & Willinsky, J. (2010). A Survey of the Scholarly Journals Using Open Journal Systems. OJS På Dansk, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.7146/ojssb.v1i1.2707, the authors were listed in the incorrect order and the affiliation for an author was missing. The correct order of authors is John Willinsky, Brian D. Edgar. The affiliation for Brian D. Edgar is XYZ Institute. The original article has been updated to reflect this change.

  • Generally, when an erratum is issued due to an error by the journal’s editorial team, the author of the erratum is the journal’s editor. When the error was caused by the authors, those authors are also the authors for the erratum.
  • Publish the erratum and then correct the original article.

Prioritize #

Correction or retraction should be acted upon as soon as possible, to minimize the proliferation of the mistake. Develop procedures on how to handle corrections, identify individuals who will be responsible, and be prepared to prioritize this work.

Depending on how long an item has been published, it may have been included in indexing databases or crawled by search engines. Some indexing and abstracting services will require the journal to submit a request to make any changes to metadata. If your journal has been indexed, familiarize yourself with their procedures for how to submit updates for corrections. For example, see National Library of Medicine’s Errata Policy.

Transparency #

Your policy should also consider which types of corrections should remain “invisible,” and which types should be made transparent.

Author name changes should always be made as “invisible” as possible. For more details, see A vision for a more trans-inclusive publishing world, from COPE.

It is best practice to be transparent with substantive changes that impact the meaning of the work. Journals can include a statement highlighting the correction. If your journal is using OJS 3.2.x or later, the versioning feature is a helpful tool in managing corrections.

Retractions should always have a retraction notice, so that anyone who has cited or linked to the article can be informed. Once a retraction has occurred, all URLs and DOIs should point to the retraction notice.