ESA journals do not allow papers with preprints
Over the weekend I saw this great tweet:
by Philippe Desjardins-Proulx and was pleased to see yet another actively open young scientist. Then I saw his follow up tweet:
…hopefully Ecology Letters and the Ecological Society of America will reverse their conservative anti-arXiv policy soon —
P Desjardins-Proulx (@phdpqc) July 14, 2012
At first I was confused. I thought ESA’s policy was that preprints were allowed based on the following text on their website (emphasis mine: still available in Google’s Cache):
A posting of a manuscript or thesis on a personal or institutional homepage or ftp site will generally be considered as a preprint; this will not be grounds for viewing the manuscript as published. Similarly, posting of manuscripts in public preprint archives or in an institution’s public archive of unpublished theses will not be considered grounds for declaring a manuscript published. If a manuscript is available as part of a digital publication such as a journal, technical series or some other entity to which a library can subscribe (especially if that publication has an ISSN or ISBN), we will consider that the manuscript has been published and is thus not eligible for consideration by our journals. A partial test for prior publication is whether the manuscript has appeared in some entity with archival value so that it is permanently available to reasonably diligent scholars. A necessary test for prior publication is whether the author can legally transfer copyright to ESA.
So I asked Philippe to explain his tweet:
This got me a little riled up so I broadcast my displeasure:
And then Jarrett Byrnes questioned where this was coming from given the stated policy:
So I emailed ESA to check and, sure enough, preprints on arXiv and similar preprint servers are considered prior publication and therefore cannot be submitted to ESA journals, despite the fact that this isn’t a problem for a few journals you may have heard of including Science, Nature, PNAS, and PLoS Biology. ESA (to their credit) has now clarified this point on their website (emphasis mine; thanks to Jaime Ashander for the heads up):
A posting of a manuscript or thesis on an author’s personal or home institution’s website or ftp site generally will not be considered previous publication. Similarly posting of a “working paper” in an institutional repository is allowed so long as at least one of the authors is affiliated with that institution. However, if a manuscript is available as part of a digital publication such as a journal, technical series, or some other entity to which a library can subscribe (especially if that publication has an ISSN or ISBN), we will consider that the manuscript has been published and is thus not eligible for consideration by our journals. Likewise, if a manuscript is posted in a citable public archive outside the author’s home institution, then we consider the paper to be self-published and ineligible for submission to ESA journals. Finally, a necessary test for prior publication is whether the author can legally transfer copyright to ESA.
In my opinion the idea that a preprint is “self-published” and therefore represents prior publication is poorly justified* and not in the best interests of science, and I’m not the only one:
So now I’m hoping that Jarrett is right:
and that things might change (and hopefully soon). If you know someone on the ESA board, please point them in the direction of this post.
UPDATE: Just as I was finishing working on this post ESA responded to the tweet stream from the last few days:
I’m very excited that ESA is reviewing their policies in this area. As I should have said in the original post, I have, up until this year, been quite impressed with ESA’s generally open, and certainly pro-science policies. This last year or so has been a bad one, but I’m hoping that’s just a lag in adjusting to the new era in scientific publishing.
UPDATE 2: ESA has announced that they have changed their policy and will now consider articles with preprints.
———————————————————————————————————————————————————————–*I asked ESA if they wanted to clarify their justification for this policy and haven’t heard back (though it has been less than 2 days). If they get back to me I’ll update or add a new post.