I have come across the issue of preprints in the last days after publishing some of my full and long abstracts in Mediacciones. By preprint I refer to “un-refereed author version of the article” (Oxford Journals) or “draft of a scientific paper that has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal (Wikipedia). I have been discussing with Anne Beaulieu whether it is a good practice to publish preprints and draft works on line. I am not sure which one is the best, however, I am inclined to publish any work in progress from the very beginning (as ideas, drafts, working papers, etc.).
Publishing preprint and work in progress raises really important and delicate questions. A few arguments against doing it are: (i) your ideas could be not mature enough, your arguments could be not strong enough so you could be very vulnerable to criticism, (ii) somebody could take advantage of your work and use it without giving you the due credit and (iii) and very important, there could happen that a journal will not accept a paper if it has been published online in advanced as a preprint (in a persona web site, a blog, etc.). I listen to these arguments coming from a person I fully trust and really appreciate. However, I and inclined to share any work in progress, no matter how (in)mature it is and no matter the risks I face. The two first cons I think that are topics that need to be empirically researched. Do we have evidences that publishing an early work can damage you? Does anybody have evidences for that?
The preprint publishing is a wide practice in certain fields (in some fields of physics, biology, medicine, etc.), there are reasons for explaining how and why it works in those fields. The point social scientist should consider is: could these practice work for social sciences (sociology, anthropology, etc.)? Antonio has a very clear and strong position: we need reasons for not publishing preprints and work in progress, not for publishing it. He turns the argument upside down. Perhaps the option of not publishing work in progress has to do more with a cultural practice than with evidences about possible damages that you could received. But, who want to risk!
The only risk that I carefully consider is the possibility that a paper would be excluded from a journal in the case that it has been published as preprint (in your blog, your webpage or an institutional repository). Unexpectedly, however, it seems that the often conservative publishing companies are more open than the researchers themselves (remember that I am referring to social sciences and humanities, not to natural sciences, they are two different worlds in their publishing practices). I have been having a look to the publishing policies of different publishers in the social sciences, and they grant specific permissions to publish preprints papers. It seems that they have started to change their policies in the last years. Below there is some quotes from the policies of four big and important editorial houses: Taylor Francis, SAGE, Elsevier and Oxford Journals. Sometimes it is difficult to find the policy of a publisher; however, there is an incredible project in the UK call SHERPA where you can locate the publishing policy of publishers using a service called RoMEO.
So, the traditional question could be remake from the traditional ‘publish or perish’, to ‘publish (preprint) or perish’.
Can I post pre-prints and post-prints of my article?
1. Always providing that the editorial policy of the journal concerned allows this within its policies on prior publication, you are able to post a pre-print version of the Article on Internet websites including your home page, institutional website or subject pre-print server so long as our standard acknowledgement is given and a link is made on publication to the final published version of scholarly record on the journal’s web page.
- You are able to post, after an embargo period commencing 12 months (STM) or 18 months (SSH) after first publication (either in print or online), your revised text version of the final article after editing and peer review on your home page, internal university, college, or corporate network or intranet, or within an Institutional or Subject Repository, but not for commercial sale or for any systematic external distribution by a third party(for example a listserv or database connected to a public access server) so long as our standard acknowledgement is given and a single link is made to the fully reference-linked version of scholarly record on the journal’s web page. For the avoidance of doubt, ‘your version’ is the author version and not the publisher-created PDF, HTML or XML version posted as the definitive, final version of scientific record.
What rights do you retain as the author following transfer of copyright?
You have the right to use the whole or any part of your article in a printed work written, edited or compiled by you, following first publication in the Journal, (with the appropriate copyright acknowledgement to be included, as shown on the Contributor agreement form).
You have the right to make photocopies of your article for your own teaching needs or to supply on an individual basis to your research colleagues.
You have the right to use all of the pre-print version of your article (the version of the paper as it was first submitted to the journal and prior to any peer-review – with appropriate copyright acknowledgement as shown on the Contributor agreement form)
You have the right to use 100% of your own version of the post-peer-reviewed version of your paper (your version including all peer-review changes/corrections you have incorporated) a minimum of one year following publication n the journal on your personal or employer/Institution’s web site (with the appropriate copyright acknowledgement to be included, as shown on the Contributor agreement form)
- Preprint of an article doesn’t count as prior publication
• Authors don’t have to remove electronic preprints from publicly accessible servers
• Articles are edited and peer-reviewed to give the quality the audience expects
Elsevier is liberal with respect to authors and electronic preprints. Unlike some publishers, we do not consider that a preprint of an article (including a prior version as a thesis) prior to its submission to Elsevier for consideration amounts to prior publication, which would disqualify the work from consideration for re-publication in a journal. We also do not require authors to remove electronic preprints from publicly accessible servers (including the author’s own home page) once an article has been accepted for publication. Further, we have announced in May 2004 a change in policy that facilitates institutional repositories by permitting authors to revise their personal versions of their papers to reflect changes made in the peer review process. This new policy permits authors to post such revised personal versions on their own web sites and the sites of their institutions, provided a link to the journal is included.
Our policy however is that the final published version of the article as it appears in the journal will continue to be available only on an Elsevier site.
Preprint use of Oxford Journals content
For the majority of Oxford Journals, prior to acceptance for publication, authors retain the right to make a pre-print [A preprint is defined here as un-refereed author version of the article] version of the article available on your own personal website and/or that of your employer and/or in free public servers of preprints and/or articles in your subject area, provided that where possible.
You acknowledge that the article has been accepted for publication in [Journal Title] ©: [year] [owner as specified on the article] Published by Oxford University Press [on behalf of xxxxxx]. All rights reserved.
Once the article has been published, we do not require that preprint versions are removed from where they are available. However, we do ask that these are not updated or replaced with the finally published version. Once an article is published, a link could be provided to the final authoritative version on the Oxford Journals Web site. Where possible, the preprint notice should be amended to:
This is an electronic version of an article published in [include the complete citation information for the final version of the Article as published in the print edition of the Journal.]
Once an article is accepted for publication, an author may not make a pre-print available as above or replace an existing pre-print with the final published version. NB There are some Oxford Journals such as the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which do not permit any kind of preprint use. For clarification of the preprint policy for any journal please contact the Rights and New Business Development Department.
Update: World Scinet’s Authors Ritgs (thank you Andrea)
Thank you Adolfo, for this thoughtful post and for this careful collation of material, which Jan Kok kindly got started. Policies are indeed surprisingly open, and researchers may be lagging behind. Or else the publishers may be playing a different game…
I am still thinking about all this, but there one more dimension that modulates ‘risk’ that I would want to highlight. The stage of a particular project, or of one’s career is also relevant to these decisions, I feel. There are times when work is more vulnerable, for example, when boundaries are not yet clearly drawn around one’s expertise or around a particular project.
This opens up another question, which is how to understand putting things online, whether as an activity that increases exposure or one of boundary-drawing and staking claims.