Thursday, December 19, 2013

The ACS and their prior publication policy for preprints #openaccess

I recently had an email conversation with someone from the ACS over some of their policies.  In particular, I noted their policy of not publishing articles that are online as preprints.  They consider those to be prior publication.

"A preprint will be considered as an electronic publication and, according to positions taken by most Editors of ACS journals, will not be considered for publication. If a submitted paper is later found to have been posted on a preprint server, it will be withdrawn from consideration by the journal."

I let them know that I was not happy with this statement because it has an effect on the research sharing behavior of researchers.  "This policy disallows chemists from using services like the arXiv, an institutional repository, or some other preprint server.  If this policy was modified, then more researchers would be able to share preprints with the world, and then science would speed up.

Will this archaic policy ever be reconsidered?"

The ACS representative noted that "As stated in the policy they view a preprint as a) unreviewed material and b) prior published material.  Hence it is not considered for publication: it is not an issue regarding open access etc. - more that we are not in the business of publishing secondhand news.”

I responded with:

"I agree that a preprint is unreviewed material, but I disagree that it is prior published material.  The author(s) should have a right to circulate their ideas and drafts to servers such as the arXiv.  The authors have the copyright to the early version of their manuscripts, and hopefully the ACS would change it up during peer review, during copy editing and in layout to make the article a different piece of work.  Physicists have been fine with this system for decades.  I would not call what the AIP, the APS, IOP Publishing, and Nature Physics are publishing as “secondhand news.”  Librarians and researchers know that the final published versions are different from the preprint versions.  That is why we keep on subscribing to AIP, APS, IOP, NPG, and Elsevier journals. 

It is this conservative policy of considering a preprint to be prior published material that is keeping chemists from posting these earlier drafts to institutional repositories or to a chemistry preprint server.  This policy is helping to keep chemists stuck in the mud when it comes to Open Access."

Is the ACS afraid that researchers will unsubscribe because a fraction of the research is scattered online as preprints?  Maybe they are afraid that researchers won't see that the ACS adds enough value to the articles?  Then, people can compare a preprint with what the ACS has published.