Monday, October 15, 2012

In which I use some strong words on the topic of a botched editing job

So this big long review article my collaborators and I sent to a very good scientific journal was sent for one last copy-edit before it was published. This is normal, most journals have a copy editor look things over right before typesetting. This particular paper had already been professionally copy edited, but hey, there is always room for improvement. So we get back the typeset version from the production editor (who works for the corporate publisher of the journal and is in charge of turning the accepted paper into a formatted, typeset publication), and an hour later, we get an email from the scientific editor (who is a scientist in charge of deciding what gets published and makes decisions about scientific content) that the copy editor (who works for the production editor and is only supposed to correct grammar, punctuation and such) is an "aggressive copy editor" and we should check the paper carefully. So we sit down to read through the paper and figure out what this means when HOLY SHIT! I notice that the very first sentence of our paper directly contradict the rest of its content. And then YOU ARE FUCKING KIDDING ME?! I notice that my coauthor's name is spelled wrong. Then LET LOOSE THE DOGS OF WAR! I see that the very central sentence of the paper, the one that defines the really important concept that we are introducing and talking about, no longer means anything at all. And then, ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME?! I see that a paper written by a very senior colleague who I've only slightly corresponded with is now attributed to me, as though I wrote it. To top it off ARE YOU SOME KIND OF IDIOT?! there are now all sorts of punctuation errors, formatting errors, random characters inserted in the middles of words. So I think maybe that's the worst of it, and then HOW HAVE YOU NOT BEEN FIRED YET?! I figure out that the copy editor went through and sorta tried to rewrite the paper, adding a sentence here, taking out a clause there, HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE inserting parenthetical phrases with no closed parenthesis. (I DON'T UNDERSTAND! Oh, and MAKE IT STOP! the names of the demographic phenomena have been changed to something the copy editor thought sounded nicer.
So we figure maybe the copy editor was high on crack, and we write to the production editor, whose job it is to make sure the copy editing was done right, and we politely explain the problem, and ask that we would like to make sure that we don't miss any errors that may have been introduced, and so could we please have the list that he has of the changes that were made, and he SATAN! SATAN! writes back a one sentence email telling us we just need to follow the instructions he already sent. Considering I spent more than a year in total working on this paper, I think I am handling it rather well. DOOM! DOOM!

I have now written a somewhat less polite email to the production editor demanding that the pre-vandalized version be used, as we can't possibly find and mark all of the hundreds of places where the paper was damaged. My hope is to end up working with a different production editor, one who is not so BLATTANTLY STUPID unconcerned about the quality of the product.

6 comments:

jte said...

You should find yourself a good lawyer (who works for free) and have them point out to the production editor that running the messed up edit will result in irreparable harm to your career, and that therefore you would be forced to sue his sorry ass off for negligence resulting in lost wages or something, plus some Latin 'n stuff. Not really, but fantasizing about that might help.

A said...

Um, wow.

That makes what happened to me last week not seem as bad (though I was shocked and appalled). The copy editors at a very good journal switched the symbols in my figure legends around without changing the text with them. Thus the figures appeared to show the exact opposite of what was true. I am going to look at proofs excruciatingly carefully from now on!!!

dan levitis said...

No reply yet from the production editor. I'll give him a couple of days before trying to get in touch with his supervisors.

Zita said...

So what is the end of the story?

dan levitis said...

So the story hasn't ended yet, but it is looking better. We didn't get any reply from the production editor, so we wrote to the scientific editor asking what to do next. He replied that they had to send it to a copy editor, to put in the type-setting marks, but would attach the instructions not to change the prose. When we get it back we will have to check it very carefully.

Zita said...

Wow! Well, good luck!