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Diligence in the Author Proof Process

It’s always satisfying to see your paper get accepted by a peer-reviewed technical journal. You have recognition of your work, both of your research and the writing itself. You’ve satisfied the expert reviewers who were asked to assess what you’ve done. If you’ve gone through a few rounds of revision, then you’re familiar with the process of addressing concerns and suggestions. This takes a lot of diligence, since every critical point made by a reviewer should be accounted for. While it’s a good reason to celebrate, it’s not the end of the road. After a paper is accepted, and before it is finally published, there’s the proofing process. The publications team will finalize your paper in the format required for the journal, and they will send you a proof for your approval.

Reviewing the proof should be “rubber-stamping” at this point. That is certainly the expectation. From my experience, I’m usually asked to review the proof by the following day. 24 hours is not a lot of time to read a paper on no notice, even if it’s your own work. But it’s just the proof, right? Shouldn’t a quick glance be enough to see that everything is in order? Well, that should be the case, but in reality more diligence is needed.

I’ve had some odd errors pop up in an author proof, and some of them have required a very careful eye to catch. Here are some examples:

  • Author name was spelt incorrectly.
  • Formatting of units were changed to italics.
  • Spacing removed between numbers and units.
  • Inequality flipped in an equation.

The last example (flipped inequality) was probably the most serious, and unfortunately that was one that I didn’t catch until after the paper was published. It simply wasn’t the kind of error that I thought to look for, especially not in the short time allocated for my feedback.

So, I learned my lesson. Take the time you need to review your author proof carefully. The publishing department might have had to make a lot of changes to get your work in the right format. You should be aware of the editorial style guidelines of the journal (here are the IEEE’s). Try to follow everything correctly when you’re writing, but also be able to spot errors.


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