Should all correction notices be open access?

OrganometallicsChemistry blogger See Arr Oh was a bit irritated one day last week.

He’d found a correction in Organometallics, an American Chemical Society (ACS) journal, and the ACS wanted $35 to read it:

After tweeting about the charge, he wrote a blog post about it, titled “Why Aren’t All Correction Articles Free?

The ACS later responded:

The Committee on Publication Ethics recommends that all retraction notices be open access, but doesn’t have a stance on whether corrections should be, as far as we know. And to be fair, some corrections — the ones often referred to as errata — are quite minor. Should misspelled names and that sort of thing be subject to the same rules as retractions?

We thought we’d ask Retraction Watch readers what they think. Take our poll, and comment below.

24 thoughts on “Should all correction notices be open access?”

    1. I wish to report on several retractions of Elsevier papers related to the plant sciences not yet covered by Retraction Watch. Hyperlinks are left in as they can be useful.

      In these cases, I wish to applaud Elsevier for showing the correct example to the plant science community for three reasons:
      a) The retraction notices are more or less informative, at least informative enough to understand the problem.
      b) The retracted papers appears with a bright red watermarked RETRACTED on them, open access and with no financial or other barriers. This is extremely important because it serves as a clear warning to others how their names will be branded if they are involved in publishing misconduct.
      c) Fair justice has been served although the scientific community should follow up and learn exactly what has happened to these scientists, i.e., if they have suffered any repercussions, or not.

      Case 1 South Korea (Plant Science; IF = 2.922)
      Sang-Hoon Lee, Dong-Gi Lee, Hyun-Sook Woo, Ki-Won Lee, Do-Hyun Kim, Sang-Soo Kwak, Jin-Seog Kim, Hyegi Kim, Nagib Ahsan, Myung Suk Choi, Jae-Kyung Yang, Byung-Hyun Lee
      Production of transgenic orchardgrass via Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of seed-derived callus tissues
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168945212002075
      http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0168945206001282/1-s2.0-S0168945206001282-main.pdf?_tid=54bd0694-93e9-11e3-8653-00000aacb361&acdnat=1392211791_5b346a18c21f830a5d895872c5f2720e
      Reason: figure duplication.

      Case 2: Australia (Industrial Crops and Products; IF = 2.468)
      Subhash Hathurusingha
      Periodic variation in kernel oil content and fatty acid profiles of Calophyllum inophyllum L.: A medicinal plant in northern Australia
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0926669013000915
      http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0926669013000915/1-s2.0-S0926669013000915-main.pdf?_tid=01c3debc-93ea-11e3-9b90-00000aacb35e&acdnat=1392212081_80f49cbafa31786dbe459da185ba1666
      Reason: recycling data to describe two completely different phenomena.

      Case 3: China (Plant Physiology and Biochemistry; IF = 2.775)
      Jiang Chen, Junjie Zhang, Hanmei Liu, Yufeng Hu, Yubi Huang
      Molecular strategies in manipulation of the starch synthesis pathway for improving storage starch content in plants (review and prospect for increasing storage starch synthesis)
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S098194281200294X
      http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0981942812002410/1-s2.0-S0981942812002410-main.pdf?_tid=05bd02a4-93eb-11e3-b5fb-00000aab0f27&acdnat=1392212517_34859b8d58682ba6d7d679255ee04859
      Reason: plagiarism

      Case 4: Tunisia/France (Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety; IF = 2.203)
      Moêz Smiri, Abdelilah Chaoui, Nicolas Rouhier, Eric Gelhaye, Jean-Pierre Jacquot, Ezzedine El Ferjani
      Effect of cadmium on resumption of respiration in cotyledons of germinating pea seeds.
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0147651312001923
      http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0147651310001028/1-s2.0-S0147651310001028-main.pdf?_tid=4458d8ae-93ef-11e3-8001-00000aab0f02&acdnat=1392214340_1b2b3528e7e99aca8141444d246f3894
      Reason: heavy plagiarism involving six papers. This is also related to another retraction that was covered by RW here:
      http://retractionwatch.com/2011/08/26/plant-science-retracts-paper-for-reused-data-forged-authorship/#more-4155

      Case 5: USA (Biosystems Engineering; IF = 1.357)
      Karan Singh, K.N. Agrawal, Ganesh C. Bora
      Advanced techniques for weed and crop identification for site specific weed management.
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1537511011001942
      http://ac.els-cdn.com/S1537511011000328/1-s2.0-S1537511011000328-main.pdf?_tid=bc19efa8-93f0-11e3-ab9f-00000aacb35f&acdnat=1392214970_9a70b7e6a8e1a22c26d6790fe8b05973
      Reason: heavy plagiarism.

      Case 6: India (Bioresource Technology; IF = 4.750)
      B.C. Behera, Neeraj Verma, Anjali Sonone, Urmila Makhija
      Antioxidant and antibacterial properties of some cultured lichens.
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960852408004483
      http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0960852407001095/1-s2.0-S0960852407001095-main.pdf?_tid=27f983a0-93f1-11e3-9619-00000aacb360&acdnat=1392215151_1e9e08c6d3cfcc82f04700fca4ac4a59
      Reason: self-plagiarized paper.

      Case 7: India (Tetrahedron; IF = 2.803)
      Sunil K. Chattopadhyay, Arnab Chatterjee, Sudeep Tandon, Prakas R. Maulik, Ruchir Kant
      Isolation of optically active nevirapine, a dipyridodiazepinone metabolite from the seeds of Cleome viscosa
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0040402011004340
      http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0040402010016534/1-s2.0-S0040402010016534-main.pdf?_tid=8aa8f436-93f1-11e3-8d0d-00000aacb35f&acdnat=1392215317_47b8f9a75b70685081fb434f8d2b3d68
      Reason: compound ID insecure.

    1. My success rate of asking for original articles directly to the authors for correspondence should be something like 5-10%. Now, just imagine for a correction notice…

      1. Sorry for annoying with my personal statistics: success rate for original DATA (typically: structure factors for X-ray structures, NMR spectra, etc.): 0%.

  1. A journal charging to read a correction is like a software developer charging for a patch. It’s their responsibility to get it right the first time – the end user should not be charged extra for fixing something that should have been working right in the first place.

    1. Sylvain: The first page of the correction at ACS Pubs is always free. And, admittedly, that’s all that’s needed for one-paragraph retractions. However, in this instance the correction is FOUR pages long, and all the “good bits” are behind the paywall (spectra, data). What should be done in this instance?

      1. a) Don’t cite their work. If you can’t get it, it doesn’t exist.

        b) If the correction is critical to your own work, get it directly from the authors.

        c) Ask for it from a colleague or friend who has access to an institutional subscription.

        I have difficulty believing that this presents any sort of insuperable obstacle.

  2. Supplementary content are additional materials, and they are freely available.

    Another thing that should be free, letters to the editor and replies to letters to the editor.

  3. I think corrections should be “bundled” with the original: if you buy the original, or the correction, you get access to the whole set. (A bit like patches for software, or warranties for other products; how that can be implemented is another problem.) Seems like the most reasonal option to me within a closed-access business-model.
    For retractions, I would advocate a reimbursement if you bought the original, I guess.

    1. Dave, you reimbursement idea is an intriguing one. If the retraction is due to misconduct on the part of the authors, shouldn’t they bear a fraction of the cost of that reimbursement?

      1. That is between the publisher and the author I guess.
        If you compare it to when you buy a faulty product, then you can go back to the shop and return it. How the shopkeeper deals with the factory is his business. (publisher=shop, author=factory)
        Having said that, I think that the author should be liable for costs incurred by the publisher (typesetting, website maintenance, that stuff). That would be a fixed amount, I guess. But I don’t think it would mean that the author would have to pay extra *per copy of the paper that was sold by the publisher*. (A cased could be made for missed revenue if the journal has a limit on the number of published papers, I guess, but that is taking it far IMHO.)
        BTW: this is my personal utopian opinion; I am not a lawyer, nor do I wish to be regarded as one 😉

    2. Brilliant idea Dave ! The reimbursement scheme could be extended to institutional subscriptions, in order to balance the stratospherical fees charged by publishers to libraries. Also, this should not be restricted to retracted articles: a really bad article should be sent back to the seller and refunded (or, alternatively, the Publisher should offer free access for one article).

      1. Dave, your last sentence was the one that I felt was most pertinent. How many publishers continue to charge to download retracted papers? I think the refund scheme will never work because in all retraction notices that I have seen, responsibility is always assigned to the authors, who make declarations of guilt that serves basically as a legal document (probably worded by the legal teams of the publishers and imposed upon the authors) that relieves the publishers of any responsibility associated with the retraction. If such an I’m-free-of-responsibilities document can be published, than all profits made off the original document until the time it was retracted would never be subjected to a refund. That means that those universities and institutes that are paying masses for “package” subscriptions had better start re-thinking how they are using their finances. Imagine that somehow we could co-ordinate a freeze by all research institutes around the world to stop paying the ridiculously high subscription fees charged by the four main for-profit publishers. Their businesses would implode and the scientific community could then literally force the hand and try to guarantee open access for the entire bundle. When ethics is financialized, and now when justice is also financialized, we should really be worried about the publishing model.

        1. I don’t know about US law, but I believe that if I have a subscription with a publisher, then I don’t (certainly should not) have anything to do with the author. Compare it to contractors and subcontractors when you buy a house for instance: if the house has faults, I want money from the contractor that I had an agreement with; if the problem was caused by subcontractors that the contractor chose to hire, that is good reason for the contractor to try to get the money back from them, but that should not be the party that I as a buyer have to deal with. It also shouldn’t matter if the publisher is “guilty”; he should be “liable” I believe it is called. He should also not simply be able to dismiss that liability by a claim in a subscription contract.
          So, I should -ideally- be reimbursed by the publisher who delivers a crappy paper, and the publisher can seek to be reimbursed by the author for costs unnecessarily made.
          (Not that it would be like that; I realise it isn’t realistic given the powers that be. Yet. But I was merely commenting of what I perceive as “just” in a system that is not open-access.)

  4. Many ‘corrections’ are because of ‘idea plagiarism’. Journals take the soft option of publishing an Erratum, which is quickly ignored & forgotten. The unethical usurping of credit then propagates. The only way to check this is to ATTACH, rather than LINK, an Erratum. Leading journals allow references to cite the errant paper, without mentioning the Erratum. Am glad to see you raise the issue of corrections. Please go beyond retractions.

  5. An additional reason for why corrections should always be open is so that readers know whether the “correction” is really a veiled retraction or an admission of misconduct, as opposed to say correction of typos.

    1. Right. As mentioned above by See Arr Oh, the correction released by Organometallics is longer than the original article. Under normal circumstances, these notices are very close to an errata list, and only report small rectifications: missing or swapped data in a table, wrong figure captions, authorship issues, etc. No long discussions are expected about that. The Organometallics notice should be something beyond routine correction (although not necessarily related to misconduct).

  6. Talking of corrections…. Did some one read Organic Letters ASAP recently. There are as many as 4-5 corrections. The notices read in a similar note “Solvent peaks had been removed from the 1H NMR spectra reported for compounds 10 (S6) and 14 (S14). The revised Supporting Information now contains the full spectra for these compounds. Original FIDs were located, and the spectra were reprocessed and have been replaced for the above compounds in the revised Supporting Information submitted with this correction. The spectra editing did not affect any of the conclusions of the published paper. The purities calculated on the basis of the revised spectra and corrected yields are as follows: 10 (94% purity, 75% yield), 14 (97% purity, 86% yield).” from http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/ol500160t

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