Re: STM Publisher Briefing on Institution Repository Deposit Mandates

From: Sandy Thatcher <>
Date: Mon, 19 Jan 2009 15:14:22 EST

The only statement in Stevan's commentary that I find surprising
and questionable--because it is stated with such certainty of its
truth, with no reference to any empirical backing, which is
unusual for Stevan--is the claim that it is "exceedingly rare"
(Stevan's emphasis) for copyediting "to detect any substantive
errors" in articles. I have no evidence to disprove this claim
that is based on systematic investigation of my own, but in all
the years I spent as a copyeditor myself, it does not ring true,
and was not consistent with my own experience in editing
scholarly work in the humanities and social sciences.

Are the sciences any different? Not according to one editor who
has worked on thousands of scientific articles, who commented on
a draft of my article on "The Value Added by Copyediting"
(Against the Grain, September 2008). Among other things, he
testified that "even in highly technical articles 'the equations
are usually accompanied by thickets of impenetrable prose,' and a
lot of his work 'involves making sure that the text and the
equations say the same thing.' He also adds that he checks 'the
basic math in tables, since it's amazing how often scientists get
the sums and averages wrong.'"

A study by Malcolm Wright and J. Scott Armstrong titled "Fawlty
Towers of Knowledge" in the March/April 2008 issue of Interfaces
also found high rates of errors in citations and quotations,
partly because researchers relied on preprints and never bothered
to check the accuracy of citations and quotations from those
preprints. I would consider these "substantive errors," since
they are not simply matters of style or grammar. So, I would ask
Stevan whence his high degree of confidence in this claim
derives. Nothing in my experience, or that of other editors I
have asked, bears it out.

Sandy Thatcher
Penn State University Press

>Two members of STM have kindly, at my request, allowed me to see a
>copy of the STM Briefing on IRs and Deposit Mandates. I focused the
>commentary below on quoted excerpts, but before posting it I asked
>STM CEO Michael Mabe for permission to include the quotes. As I do
>not yet have an answer, I am posting the commentary with paraphrases
>of the passages I had hoped to quote. If I receive permission from
>Michael, I will re-post this with the verbatim quotes. As it stands,
>it is self-contained and self-explanatory.
>Full hyperlinked version of the posting:
>The International Association of Scientific, Technical and
>Medical Publishers (STM) has circulated a fairly anodyne briefing
>to its member publishers. Although it contains a few familiar
>items of misinformation that need to be corrected (yet again),
>there is nothing alarming or subversive in it, along the lines of
>the PRISM/pit-bull misadventure of 2007.
>Below are some quote/comments along with the (gentle) corrections
>of the persistent bits of misinformation: My responses are
>unavoidably -- almost ritually -- repetitive, because the errors
>and misinformation themselves are so repetitive.
>[MOD. Note: See URL above for the full text]
Received on Mon Jan 19 2009 - 21:20:59 GMT

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