ESA journals will now allow papers with preprints

ESA has just announced that it has changed its policy on preprints and will now allow articles that have been posted on major preprint servers, like arXiv, to be considered for publication in its journals.

I am very excited about this change for two reasons. First, as nicely laid out in INNGE blog post by Philippe Desjardins-Proulx*, there are many positive benefits to science of the preprint culture. They make science more accessible, allow researchers to get feedback from the community prior to peer review, and speed up the scientific process by making ideas available to others as quickly as possible. We should take this opportunity as a community to start developing the kind of vibrant preprint culture that has benefited so many other disciplines. Second, I am encouraged by the rapid response of ESA to the concerns expressed by myself and other members of the community, and take it as a sign that my favorite society is open to making the kinds of changes that are necessary to best facilitate science in the modern era. More work is clearly necessary, but this is a very encouraging start.

UPDATE: Carl Boettiger has posted his very nice letter to Don Strong that played an critical roll in taking this discussion from a bunch of folks talking over social media to something that effected meaningful change.


*See also, posts by GCBias and Titus Brown

27 Comments on “ESA journals will now allow papers with preprints

  1. Pingback: Do you know you can post prior to publication at arXiv? | Sociobiology

  2. Pingback: ESA journals do not allow papers with preprints « Jabberwocky Ecology | Weecology's Blog

  3. Pingback: Journal policy change: ESA journals will consider preprints | Haldane's Sieve

  4. Reblogged this on charismatics are dangerous and commented:
    it’s nice to see that esa journals are going to allow preprinted papers fainlly [or again?]. hopefully the rest of ecological journals will soon follow, as that’ll be one fewer bone to pick with the publication complex…

  5. Just for the record, let me note that in a previous post I expressed skepticism that the ESA, in particular Don Strong, would quickly change their minds on this. I was wrong. Kudos to Don and the other decision-makers at ESA for listening to the membership and taking what I think is clearly the right decision.

    Curious whether EcoLetts will follow suit. Has anyone written to them asking them to? Now seems like a good time…

  6. Yep, they moved pretty fast on this. Definitely impressive.

    I don’t think that anyone has tried to convince Ecology Letters to change their mind yet. Do I hear a volunteer?

  7. Dear Jabberwocky: Thank you for the praise for ESA publications. We are open to suggestions of new and fruitful ways to serve our authors and readership. Warm regards, Don

  8. Hi Don – thanks for stopping by and thanks for moving so quickly on the preprint issue (I understand that changing policies at an organization like ESA can often take quite a while). We do have a few more ideas about things the society can do to help move the future of publishing forward. When (and by when I mean if) the semester slows down enough for us to write them up seriously we’ll send them your way.

  9. I tried with Ecology Letters a while ago (early 2011), I didn’t just email Dr. Marcel Holyoak, I tried to convince him! I can’t reproduce his answer here but it was fairly long and I thank him for taking the time to answer me. His answer, basically, is that they try to uphold the highest ethical standard and accepting papers submitted to arXiv would open Ecology Letters to the charge of dual publication. My initial email was:


    Dear Dr. Holyoak,

    I was informed by Ms. Espuno that manuscripts submitted to could not be considered for publication in Ecology Letters because of the Copyright Transfer Agreement. is a noncommercial website devoted to storing preprints of scientific papers. Manuscripts submitted to arXiv are not reviewed and authors do not transfer their rights to arXiv. In many fields, including mathematics and physics, nearly all papers are submitted to arXiv before being submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. arXiv improves visibility, establishes priority, and gives an early advantage (more citations earlier in the life of the paper). has a section devoted to quantitative biology, where several papers on ecology and evolution are submitted each week. It would actually be surprising if Ecology Letters never published an article previously stored on arXiv, as ecology interests many scientists including physicists, mathematicians, and phylogeneticists. Few high-impact journals refuse papers previously submitted to arXiv, while many encourage it. Nature and PNAS are good examples. In fact, Nature even started its own arXiv-like website: Nature Precedings. Many publishing companies, such as Springer, Elsevier, and Nature Publishing Group, explicitly accept manuscripts stored on arXiv. Wiley-Blackwell has a more flexible approach. Bob Campbell, a senior editor for Wiley-Blackwell, wrote on the subject in a short text entitled “Previously Published Material”:

    The text is recent (November 2010) and clearly state that arXiv doesn’t violate the Copyright Transfer Agreement Contributor’s Representations. Mr. Campbell wrote that “one way of differentiating between previously posted material and previously published material is to consider whether the material has undergone the process of peer review”. In this case, manuscripts submitted to arXiv should not create any problem.


    Philippe Desjardins-Proulx
    Graduate student, Canada Research Chair on Terrestrial Ecosystems

  10. I emailed BES yesterday (publ. by Wiley) about their preprint policy, and got an answer today from the editor of Journal of animal ecology. Apparently they plan to have new guidelines for all their journals ready in late May. Until then, it is up to individual editors to decide what counts as prior publication, but at the moment public preprint servers would probably count as prior publication while (closed) institutional repositories are ok.

  11. Tobais: Are you intruding into the private space where Ethan an I conduct confidential communication?

  12. Don: Seems like it. You always run that risk when conducting confidential communication at the table of a packed restaurant.

  13. Tobias: That’s good to hear. We attempted to contact them when we were writing our soon to be published commentary on this ( but they never responded. Wiley is definitely one of the last few publishers to not really address this and it’s the last real hurdle for being able to safely submit preprints without worrying about where you’ll end up wanting to submit the paper at some point. I’m assuming this is for BES only? My recent conversations with Wiley have not given me the impression that they are nearly that close to having general policies in place.

    Don: We’ll definitely need a new back channel now that Tobias is on to us.

  14. I read your paper and was curious about the BES policy. Also, the Sherpa/Romeo database list BES journals as “yellow” (preprints ok) while the journal webpages are more ambiguous. This is unfortunate since researchers might use the Sherpa/Romeo database (also utilized by Researchgate in their journal presentations) to base their decision on whether to post preprints. So the sooner BES can clarify their position the better. I agree that also Wiley as a whole should have official (and more liberal) guidelines, but the answer I got is only relevant for BES journals.

  15. Pingback: Easy steps towards open scholarship - Ross Mounce

  16. Hi all, sorry to be late to the party. I’m EIC of a Wiley journal and the impression I got from our managing editor was that it was up to the individual journal to decide if they would allow pre-prints so I’ll be bringoing it before the EdBoard soon. That leads me to my questions: are the best options for ecology/evolutionary biology arXiv and PeerJ?

  17. Hello Dr. Bruna,

    Yes, arXiv and PeerJ are arguably the best options, with PeerJ being perhaps a little more user- and biology-friendly (arXiv’s system of moderators can be annoying too).

    It was also my impression that Wiley had no general policy on the subject, with some journals open to the idea while others would refuse papers submitted to an open preprint archive.



  18. Philippe, thank you for your quick and thoughtful reply. As for you, “Don Strong” — if that is your *real* name — you sound like someone who spent far too much time breathing the toxic air of the Florida capital. Obviously in Gainesville we don’t use armadillos for sending messages, but as speed bumps.

  19. When I lived in toxic Tallahassee, back before the ice melted, there were many jokes about those speed bumps, and they all referred to Gators of the human sort. But that was then and this is now. The Aggies have just lost their second game of the season, the atheists are teaching evolution everywhere including Tallahassee, and all is right with the world.

  20. Pingback: ESA journals and Ecology Letters will not publish papers with preprints (UPDATEDx2) | Dynamic Ecology

  21. Pingback: British Ecological Society journals now allow preprints | Jabberwocky Ecology | Weecology's Blog

  22. I’d like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this blog.

    I really hope to view the same high-grade blog posts by you later on as well.
    In fact, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own blog now ;

  23. Pingback: Ecology Letters now allows preprints; and why this is a big deal for ecology | Jabberwocky Ecology | The Weecology Blog

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