Publishing in journals – Understanding your rights

Bonnie Swoger’s article ‘Understanding your rights: pre-prints, post-prints and publisher versions’ in Scientific American, once again raises the issue surrounding journal copyright, and the disparities between each journal and the type of version allowed to be uploaded to repositories.

As Elsevier has been criticised for asking some platforms to go as far as to remove copies of articles already published in some of its journals, clarification is needed on the restrictions imposed by publishers, and the different versions which may be uploaded to different repositories.

In her article, Swoger, a Science and Technology Librarian in New York, defines clearly the different print versions as follows:

‘Pre-print – A pre-print is the original version of the manuscript as it is submitted to a journal. While the authors may have sought help from their colleagues in selecting data analysis techniques, improving manuscript clarity, and correcting grammar, the pre-print has not been through a process of peer review. It typically looks like a term paper – a double spaced .doc file with minimal formatting.’

‘Post-print – A post-print is a document that has been through the peer review process and incorporated reviewers comments. It is the final version of the paper before it is sent off the the journal for publication. It may be missing a final copyedit (if the journal still does that) and won’t be formatted to look like the journal. It still looks like the double spaced .doc file. Sometimes, the term “pre-print” is used interchangeably with “post-print,” but when it comes to permissions issues, it is important to clarify which version of a manuscript is being discussed.’

‘Publishers version/PDF – This is the version of record that is published on the publishers website. It will look quite spiffy, having been professionally typeset by the publisher. Library databases will link to this version of the paper.’

In general, publishers most commonly allow pre-print versions to be uploaded to repositories. However, each case, publisher and copyright agreement is different, and must be verified before publication.

One useful tool, which Swoger also identifies for finding summaries of copyright agreements is SHERPA/RoMEO which classifies journals according to what extent a journal will allow you to share your published articles, in what format, and under what conditions they will allow that sharing.

More information about this resource can be found in the previous blog post.

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