Survey of Editorial Policies

In order to understand the range of errata policies employed by online academic journals, I posted a ten-item questionnaire on SurveyMonkey asking journal editors how they would respond to authors’ post-publication requests for corrections, edits, and revisions – some changes relatively minor, others more substantial.  After an opening question which asked respondents to provide the name of their journal and editorial title, the next seven questions focused on specific aspects of each editor’s erratum/corrigendum policy.  As with the brief quiz in the introduction, editors were asked to select among the following three choices: 

Not allowed
Allowed with errata
Allowed without errata

2.) Does your journal have a formal policy for edits or corrections after an article is published?

Please indicate your journal's editorial position regarding the following types of post-publication edits:

3.) Minor corrections to citations (e.g. page ranges, authors’ names, etc.)

4.) Substantive corrections to citations (e.g., adding or deleting references, inserting new publication information when a manuscript is published, etc.)

5.) Minor corrections to the text (e.g., typos, italics, missing punctuation, etc.)

6.) Minor insertions and/or deletions to the text (e.g., missing word(s), publication date, etc.)

7.) Substantive additions to the text (e.g., charts, graphics, data, results, elaboration, etc.)

8.) Substantive deletions/replacements to the text (e.g., charts, data, results, etc.)

9.) Substantive revisions to claims, arguments, reflections in the text

The final question in the survey asked editors to identify their reasons, philosophical and practical, for enforcing their particular set of policies. 

10.) Which of the following statements characterize(s) your or your journal’s policy about edits to articles published online scholarly journals? (check all that apply)

In August 2011, shortly after uploading the survey and testing it for functionality, I consulted the list of online, open-access journals compiled at the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and randomly selected representative publications from each of the major disciplinary categories DOAJ uses to classify them:

I quickly discovered that a great many of the journals in this listing, typically those located in scientific domains, are published by a relatively small number of publishing companies, among them Hindawi Publishing Corporation and Science Publications.  Hindawi Publishing publishes over 300 academic journals in an expansive range of disciplines, but its corporate model for editorial work, like those in similar publishing consortiums, makes it difficult to identify single editors for individual journals.  All of the journals in these companies’ stables list extensive editorial boards on their Web sites, but the chief editors – in-house employees of the publishing company – are never identified by name.  [See, for example, the Editorial Board listings for the Journal of Marine Biology and the Journal of Computer Science.]  Even so, one of the lead editors at Hindawi Publishing responded to my email inquiry and completed the survey, noting in a comment that his responses reflected the editorial policies in place for all 300+ Hindawi journals.[1]  In all, I contacted 39 editors (including myself as the editor of Across the Disciplines) and invited them to participate in the study.  I sent a reminder message a week after the initial inquiry, and eventually a total of 16 editors completed the online survey, a 41% response rate.  [A complete list of journals contacted can be found in Appendix 1.]  The editors who completed the survey represented the following journals:

Overall, the survey respondents represent five rhetoric/composition journals, three fine and applied arts journals, three education journals, two architecture/urban planning journals, one horticulture journal, one math journal, and one publishing company that oversees hundreds of science journals.

[1] Rather than count this response as 300 policies from 300 different journals, I counted it as one set of answers from a single editor, equivalent to those provided by other editors in the survey.