If you've ever been uncertain about how to ensure compliance when accessing and sharing scholarly journal articles, you're not alone!
There are many ways that scholarly articles can be disseminated. But rules about which version of an article you can legally share, and under what circumstances, vary widely among journal publishers. The first step in navigating compliance is understanding which version of an article you need for your intended use. Here's a quick recap of the three main versions:
- Preprint - the author's original manuscript submitted to a publication
- Post-print - the final accepted manuscript, which has gone through the peer-review process and includes all revisions requested by the publisher—but has not yet been formatted and typeset for publishing
- Version of record (VoR) - the published version of an article, which has been formatted, typeset, copyrighted, and assigned a permanent identifier (such as a DOI) for citation purposes
What Can (and Can't) You Share?
Once you know which version of an article you have, determining legal usage rights can still be quite complicated because each publisher has its own rules.
Due to copyright protections, for example, many publishers restrict the VoR from being shared publicly and/or deposited into an institution's repository—with the notable exception of some Open Access articles. Not all Open Access articles are the VoR, however, in which case the publisher's rules for the appropriate version would apply instead.
On the other hand, some publishers do allow the VOR to be shared publicly, but only after an embargo period. The embargo period typically applies to post-prints as well, most of which can be shared widely after a certain amount of time (allowing publishers to provide value to subscribers before making the research public).
Depending on the journal, publishers may also allow authors to self-archive or share their original preprint manuscripts via preprint servers (e.g. arXiv, and bioRxiv), their personal website, or even on social media.
The bottom line is that each publisher has its own policies for sharing and archiving the articles they have published—and navigating all the fine print isn’t easy.
This Wikipedia page provides a list of academic journals by preprint policy. And the Sherpa Romeo website lets you search by journal to find summaries of publishers' copyright and Open Access archiving policies.
The VoR is required in certain situations, most commonly for regulatory processes. In addition, it is often needed when applying for grants. When you locate an article in a repository, however, it may be a post-print, or in some cases, you may only have access to the citation for the VOR, rather than the full-text article. Article Galaxy, our research retrieval platform, makes compliance a lot easier by providing instant access to full-text PDFs, with advanced filters to ensure users get the appropriate version for their stated intended use.
Ask an Article Galaxy specialist for more information.