Correction and retraction policy

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Correction and retraction policy

Nature Research journals recognize the importance of post-publication commentary on published research as necessary to advancing scientific discourse. Formal post-publication commentary on published papers can involve challenges, clarifications or, in some cases, replication of the published work and may, after peer review, be published online as Matters Arising, usually alongside a Reply from the original Nature journal authors.

Complaints, disagreements over interpretation and other matters arising should be addressed to the editor of the journal concerned. Because debates over interpretation are often inconclusive, we do not automatically consider criticisms of review articles or other secondary material, and in the event that we decide to publish such a criticism we do not necessarily consult the original authors. Editorial decisions in such cases are based on considerations of reader interest, novelty of arguments, integrity of the publication record and fairness to the parties involved. Publication may take various forms at the discretion of the editor. The Nature Reviews journals consider correspondence relating to all review-type articles but not to Research Highlights.

Corrections are published for significant errors in non-peer-reviewed content of the Nature Research journals at the discretion of the editors. Readers who have identified such an error should send an email to the general email address of the journal, clearly stating the publication reference, title, author and section (eg News, Essay) of the article, and briefly explaining the error.

The Nature Research journals operate the following policy for making corrections to the print and online versions of their peer-reviewed content.

Publishable amendments that affect the publication record and/or the scientific accuracy of published information receive a DOI and are published in print and online in the journal. Four categories of amendments are relevant for peer-reviewed material: Erratum or Publisher Correction, Corrigendum or Author Correction, Retraction or Addendum. All four correction types are bi-directionally linked to the original published paper. Detailed information on each amendment category follows below.

Erratum or Publisher Correction. Notification of an important error made by the journal that affects the publication record or the scientific integrity of the paper, or the reputation of the authors or of the journal. 

Corrigendum or Author Correction. Notification of an important error made by the author(s) that affects the publication record or the scientific integrity of the paper, or the reputation of the authors or the journal.

Retraction. Notification of invalid results that affect the reliability of a previously published article. The original article is marked as retracted but remains available to readers, and the retraction statement notifying readers of the invalidity of the published paper is bi-directionally linked to the original published paper.

Addendum. Notification of additional information about a paper. Addenda are published when the editors decide that the addendum is crucial to the reader's understanding of a significant part of the published contribution. Addenda include Editorial Expression of Concern, which is an editorial statement alerting our readership to serious concerns with the published paper. Editorial Expression of Concern are typically updated with another amendment once further information is available.

Editor's Note. An editor's note is a statement from editors notifying readers of issues related to the published paper. It is an online update made only to the HTML version of record of the published article. Editor's notes are typically updated with another amendment once further information is available. 

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Editorial decision-making

Decisions about types of correction are made by the editors of the journal that published the paper, sometimes with peer-reviewers' advice. This process involves consultation with the authors of the paper, but the editor makes the final decision about the category in which the amendment is published. Each Nature Research journal states the details of its procedure in the guide to authors on its own website, but all operate a broadly similar process.

When an amendment is published, it is linked bi-directionally to and from the article being corrected. For Nature, if the correction is significant, for example if a new figure is published, a PDF version of the correction is appended to the last page of the original article PDF so that the original article PDF will remain a facsimile of the printed page and readers downloading the PDF will receive the original article plus amendment. For the monthly Nature Research journals, a corrected PDF is posted online that includes on its final page a description of the original error and when it was corrected.

Authors sometimes request a correction to their published contribution that does not affect the contribution in a significant way or impair the reader's understanding of the contribution (a spelling mistake or grammatical error, for example). Nature Research journals do not publish such corrections, in print or online. The online and print versions of the article are both part of the published record and hence their original published version is preserved. Nature Research journals do, however, correct the online version of a contribution if the wording in the html version does not make sense when compared with the PDF version ("see left" for a figure that is an appropriate phrase for the PDF but not for the html version, for example). In these cases, the fact that a correction has been made is stated in a footnote so that readers are aware that the originally published text has been amended.

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Corrections to AOP articles

The policy of the Nature Research journals is that corrections are rarely made to Advance Online Publication (AOP) articles before they appear in the print version of the journal.

If a very significant error is discovered after publication of an AOP article but before the print version has gone to press, the editors will decide whether to amend the AOP article. If a correction is made to the online version, a footnote is added to state that: first, there was an error in the AOP version of the article; second, the error has since been corrected in the HTML and PDF versions; and third, that the article will appear correctly in a forthcoming print issue. When the article is printed, it will carry a publication date in the following style: Published online: 9 January 2007; corrected 10 January 2007 (details online); doi:10.1038/nature709.

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As soon as a Nature Research journal has agreed to publish a correction to a published paper, the author can contact the reprint department by email, including the full publication reference in the message. Reprints can be altered to provide the corrected version if notification is received in time.

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Supplementary information

In the Nature Research journals, authors' corrections to supplementary information (SI) are made only in exceptional circumstances (for example major errors that compromise the conclusion of the study). Published corrections to SI are usually accompanied by a printed Corrigendum note. Authors cannot update SI because new data have become available or interpretations have changed, as the SI is a peer-reviewed and integral part of the paper, and hence part of the published record.

SI cannot be amended between acceptance and publication unless a change made for technical reasons by the journal in order to publish the material on the website has introduced a significant error.

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Nature Research journals' editorials

  • Advocacy for the integrity of the scientific record is stronger than ever. Paradoxically, retracting a flawed paper is getting more and more difficult. Nature MedicineRetraction blues, December 2013.
  • Publication of a paper initiates the process of scientific exchange that requires the ongoing participation of authors. Nature Chemical Biology. Authors on the record, March 2013.
  • When Nature Research journals receive serious allegations about data or author conduct, they follow a clear procedure to work out whether the published record needs to be revised. NatureUnder suspicion, 29 April 2010.
  • The discovery of serious errors in two recent papers in the journal leads to lessons for authors, referees and editors. Nature Neuroscience. Setting the record straight, January 2007.
  • One paper’s retraction process. Nature Medicine. The long road to retraction, September 2003.

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