Online self-archiving is great way to realize open access and open science. By sharing their updated research work on different online platforms, the researcher (e.g. scientist and engineer) can get the maximum exposure while accelerating the development in certain field. For example, as an environmental engineer, I usually share my recent publication on Researchgate, which is an ideal platform for self-archiving and sharing knowledge. However, every time I try to upload my self-archived manuscript, Researchgate will pop up a window emphasizing the copyright issue. Interestingly, I find that the Researchgate adopts a SHERPA/RoMEO classification, offering explicit sharing and self-archiving levels for 2291 journals.
Fig. 1 RoMEO color for various journals and corresponding archiving policy
The RoMEO Project (Rights MEtadata for Open archiving) is originally funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee from August 2002 to July 2003 to investigate the copyright issues of self-archiving in the UK academic community under the Open Archive Initiative’s Protocol for Metadata Harvesting. The RoMEO classification system has categorize the 2291 journals into four self-archiving levels (Fig. 1). For the RoMEO green journals (40%), the author can archive pre- and post-print manuscript, whereas blue (33%) and yellow (6%) journals grant only post- or pre-print manuscript archiving. White journals have the most strict regulations as no form of self-archiving is permitted. Hence, if I want to upload my published paper on Researchgate, theoretically, I need to first check the self-archiving level of my journal and then upload the permitting form online.
Another important issue associated with self-archiving is understanding the difference between pre-print, post-print, and publisher versions. Typically, the publishers always make distinctions among them in order to help authors identify sharing limit of a specific article.
Pre-print – This version is literally the most pristine form of your manuscript as it is submitted to a specific journal. The pre-print manuscript has not gone through a peer-review process initiated by the journal, and hence the quality may vary much. All the research work is performed by listed authors. Usually, pre-prints are in the form of double-spaced word file.
Post-print – If the pre-print goes through the peer-review process, it becomes a post-print document. The post-print has reviewers comments, mostly constructive ones to help improve the quality of the manuscript. Rejected manuscript with reviewers’ comments cannot be considered as a post-print. It should be the final version of a manuscript before official publication. Other major differences between pre- and post-print manuscripts are discussed in Scientific American.
It (post-print) 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.
Publisher version/PDF – This is the final version appeared on the publisher’s website with the logo of one specific journal. It is usually presented in a PDF version with professional typeset with all components (e.g. abstract, figures, tables, body text, and references) properly arranged. Under this stage, the manuscript can go through several status, i.e. accepted manuscript, corrected proof, and official (or final) published paper. The subscribed end users, university library for instance, can have full access to publisher version.
As we figure out the difference between these version, I still finds that lots of authors upload publisher version of their work on Researchgate. Although the copyright issue is in the grey area on Researchgate, we scientists and engineers still need to fully understand all these classifications and regulations, and advocate open science cautiously.