Physicist Rick Trebino just wanted to point out a mistake in a published journal article by publishing a comment to correct the archival record. He published the process in a hilarious article, How to Publish a Scientific Comment in 1 2 3 Easy Steps (PDF). Thats 123 steps mind you, not 1-2-3 steps. The whole thing sounds like something Douglas Adams would have written, had his milieu been academic publishing and not space adventures.
On a serious note, Trebino brings up some interesting points about the conflict of interest of journal editors have with regard to poor-quality content that makes it to the printed volume. It reminds me of one of the BioConductor talks I went to last month. I don't remember the exact details (or the speaker, sorry -- it was a great talk, though -- update: it was Keith Baggerly), but it concerned a published article where the results seemed odd to the speaker. The speaker tried in vain to get hold of the source data to reproduce the analysis, but the article authors didn't cooperate. So in an amazing feat of data forensics, the speaker managed to recreate the data by matching public sources to measurements from the printed graphs, and figured out that there were gross data errors in the article: labels transposed, data duplicated, that kind of thing. The conclusions were completely bunk, but the journal refused to print a correction, despite the fact that it meant actual patients were being trialled on inappropriate drugs. It's a long time since I've published in a refereed journal, but are things really this bad? And is open access publishing the solution?The analysis below from scienceblogs.com takes on the issue in more detail.
Adventures in Ethics and Science: The saga of the journal comment