Re: STM Publisher Briefing on Institution Repository Deposit Mandates

From: <C.Oppenheim_at_LBORO.AC.UK>
Date: Tue, 20 Jan 2009 12:11:58 +0000

My experience as an author is that the top journals have thorough
copy editors and many is the embarrassing mistake in the text that
they have picked up which referees and editors have failed to do so. 
But  this is only true of the minority of top journals;  the majority
of journals in my experience do a fairly superficial job of copy
editing and some screw it up.
I wouldn't dismiss citation errors either - there are an annoying
number which slip through which make the item cited untraceable and I
am always grateful to copy editors who pick up my errors in citing

Professor Charles Oppenheim
Department of Information Science
Loughborough University
Leics LE11 3TU

Tel 01509-223065
Fax 01509 223053
e mail


From: American Scientist Open Access Forum
On Behalf Of Sally Morris (Morris Associates)
Sent: 20 January 2009 10:53
Subject: Re: STM Publisher Briefing on Institution Repository Deposit

OK, so the journal I edit is not a scientific research journal, and
this is purely anecdotal.  But in editing Learned Publishing for the
past couple of years (which includes copy-editing), I have found and
corrected numerous errors in citations (and have corrected incomplete
ones, and added DOI or other links for all of those available
online).  I have also identified numerous instances where text was
inconsistent or at variance with the Figures.  And, now and again,
downright errors in the text which I happen to spot because I know
the field.


I like to think it is the Editor's (and copy-editor's) job to make
the author look better than he/she is!  Seriously though, the aim of
copy-editing is primarily to make the content as understandable as
possible - picking up errors at that late stage is a bonus
(peer-reviewers should have spotted them, but don't always)





Sally Morris

Partner, Morris Associates - Publishing Consultancy


South House, The Street

Clapham, Worthing, West Sussex BN13 3UU, UK


Tel: +44(0)1903 871286

Fax: +44(0)8701 202806



From: American Scientist Open Access Forum
On Behalf Of Stevan Harnad
Sent: 19 January 2009 23:36
Subject: Re: STM Publisher Briefing on Institution Repository Deposit


On Mon, Jan 19, 2009 at 3:14 PM, Sandy Thatcher <> wrote:


      The only statement in Stevan's commentary that I find
      and questionable--because it is stated with such
      certainty of its
      truth, with no reference to any empirical backing, which
      unusual for Stevan--is the claim that it is "exceedingly
      (Stevan's emphasis) for copyediting "to detect any
      errors" in articles. I have no evidence to disprove this
      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.


But Sandy, you were copy-editing books, and I was talking about
journal articles (OA's target content)!


And during those years you were copy-editing at Princeton, I was
editing (a journal) at Princeton. My only evidence is from those 25
years: Lots of substantive errors were caught by the editor (me!),
but that was part of the peer review, the editor being a super-peer.
Negligibly few were ever caught by the copy-editors...


      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,
      testified that "even in highly technical articles 'the
      are usually accompanied by thickets of impenetrable
      prose,' and a
      lot of his work 'involves making sure that the text and
      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.'"


There's a lot of awfully bad writing in science, alas, and the
copy-editing is usually so light that it doesn't make the writing
much better. But I said *substantive* errors, and the responsibility
for catching those is the referees' (and editor's), not the


      A study by Malcolm Wright and J. Scott Armstrong titled
      Towers of Knowledge" in the March/April 2008 issue of
      also found high rates of errors in citations and
      partly because researchers relied on preprints and never
      to check the accuracy of citations and quotations from
      preprints. I would consider these "substantive errors,"
      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 and I clearly mean something different by "substantive errors":
I wouldn't consider citation errors substantive (though it's
certainly useful to correct them).  I think citations and even
quotations will be increasingly checked by software, online, as
everything is made OA. But I agree that only the future will decide
how much copy-editing service author/institutions will be prepared to
pay for, if and when journal publishing downsizes to just peer-review
(plus copy-editing) alone.


Stevan Harnad
Received on Tue Jan 20 2009 - 12:19:29 GMT

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