Suppose you learn of a confirmed fundamental error in a CS conference paper (for a reputable conference) that smells of gross negligence. Is there any way to get it retracted? Whenever I’ve asked, people told me that CS conferences don’t do that—and I’ve surely never seen it for PL conferences (though this paper is on algorithms).

While we can’t talk specifics, please assume I’ve already done all the due diligence to confirm the error, down to getting the authors to confirm it.

I understand such errors won’t kill people directly as errors in life sciences could, but I’m still concerned. Maybe a more serious version of https://xkcd.com/386/, but still.

The specific case

Years ago (around 2009) I’ve confirmed the flaw with other experts of the field (let’s call them A), who confirmed it with the authors of the paper (let’s call them B). I was just an undergrad and not working in the field, so I didn’t participate in the conversation. This paper is still cited years later by the authors (as a “preliminary version”) without mentioning the error—though a later paper citing it changes a key equation and (maybe) fixes the problem.

*Those experts avoided publicizing the flaw out of professional courtesy—making enemies of the author would allegedly have risked hurting their publication chances. However, they (had to) go as far as citing the paper without mentioning issues in follow-up work. Out of respect, I hence won’t mention even the subfield of algorithms or the conference.

I’m also outside of the field—I got involved simply because I was friends with one undergrad doing research with experts A and he just asked me help when he couldn’t make sense of the paper by B.

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