Should psychologists post their published articles?

Gualtiero Piccinini writes:

I always put my papers online. I used to publish online a penultimate version, under the assumption that since it's not identical to the published version, it's ok. Lately, taking a cue from the copyright form of Australasian Journal of Philosophy, I've started posting the last version sent to the publisher (before proof corrections)

While some authors cross off the relevant portions of agreements before signing, Piccinini signs the publishers' copyright forms as they are. Clearly the practice of posting your articles online violates many of these agreements. Piccinini asks readers for their opinions as to whether this is the best practice, but unfortunately there aren't yet any responses there, so I thought I'd repeat the question here, before our presumably larger audience. First, a poll:

Personally, I find it very useful if authors post their work online. Even if I obtained the journal article through a subscription or a library, often it's handy to have the article in PDF form -- either to search for a critical section, or to duplicate a figure or stimulus.

But if a scholar refuses to sign a copyright agreement, or alters it, do they risk losing a publication credit that may have an important impact on their career? And if everyone posted their articles online, then how would journals make the money they need to pay editorial and publication staff? On the other hand, much of the research we're talking about was paid for by public funds. Shouldn't it be freely available to the public?

It's a tough question. Feel free to discuss it here, or head on over to the Brains blog and discuss it there.


More like this

A few weeks ago Bill Gasarch published his Journal Manifesto 2.0 on the Computational Complexity blog. Basically, his idea was to start a scholarly publishing revolution from the inside: Keep in mind: I am NOT talking to the NSF or to Journal publishes or to Conference organizers. I am NOT going to…
Even though I've been frightfully busy this week, I've been following the news about the launch of PRISM (Partnership for Research Integrity in Science & Medicine). I first saw it discussed in this post by Peter Suber, after which numerous ScienceBloggers piled on. If you have some time (and…
This is a tale of two companies and a bunch of not-so-innocent bystanders. Both Elsevier and are for-profit companies in the scholarly communications industry. Elsevier is a publisher while is a platform for scholars that, among other things, allows them to post copies of…
I'm committed to a lot of different kinds of "open." This means that I can and do engage in tremendous acts of hair-splitting and pilpul with regard to them. "Gratis" versus "libre" open access? Free-speech versus free-beer software code? I'm your librarian; let's sit down and have that discussion…

One way to get around this is to publish in open access journals without reproduction restrictions (like the PLoS journals). If you publish in a journal that allows you to reproduce the work with attribution, you can do what you want with it. Or, even better, you can simply link to the journal webpage where your article is located -- that way you don't have to host the pdf yourself.

Does the peer-review publication process require copyrights to sustain itself? In other words, if enough scholars agree to publish only in journals that allow free acess, can those journals have a business,or non-profit business model that can work? Editors, and staff of the journals need to get paid somehow, but I can't help but view some of the larger publishing companies as parasitic.

This isn't a new observation, but it bears repeating...
Physics seems to do quite well by allowing scientists to publish papers fairly directly. Perhaps this is because strong tests of hypotheses are easier to come by in physics than they are in psychology, making peer review more straightforward?

One way to get around this is to publish in open access journals without reproduction restrictions (like the PLoS journals)

Sure, that's the ideal. One of my favorite journals, the Journal of Vision, is like this. But if your specific topic isn't covered, or your article isn't accepted, then from a career perspective, I think most people wouldn't be willing to simply forego publication out of principle.

Does the peer-review publication process require copyrights to sustain itself? In other words, if enough scholars agree to publish only in journals that allow free acess, can those journals have a business,or non-profit business model that can work?

Well, PLOS has a model like that, but it still requires some hefty grant money to keep running. I'm not sure every small, niche-oriented journal could keep running under that model. However, that sort of publication might be better served going Web-only, which could cut costs greatly.

As I've said before, it's really all the same set of government grants that fund library journal subscriptions, research, and researchers' personal grants to pay for subscriptions, so why not reallocate it so that instead of being tied up in libraries, everyone can freely access all the research results they paid for.

Most major publishers allow authors to archive the published version of their work on their own website and/or in institutional repositories. Violations of copyright generally require a paper to be posted on a website unaffiliated with a study's authors. The specifics vary across publishers, obviously.

That said, as far as I know it's virtually unheard of for publishers to go after authors for posting papers on their website, even in cases when it technically violates copyright. I imagine that's because (a) cracking down in a systematic way would require resources most publishers down have; (b) publishers don't want the bad press that would probably follow such a move; and (c) it's a bad idea to piss off the people who allow you to make your living by sending you articles at no cost. So whatever the legalities, there's no good practical reason not to post one's paper online (and plenty of really good reason to do so--namely increased citation rate).

You now... some fields are better off than others. Psychology happens to not be one of them. Any APA journal has the most horribly retarded set of copyright restrictions ever... ugh!

ohh... by the way Dan Simons has found a (supposedly) legal way around the posting restriction. His system requires someone to request the article and then the server emails a copy of the specific article to the person.
Here's an example (with my own pubs)

And yes I (K)now I can't spell... well actually.. yes I know I can't proofread.

At least in my field, the publishers really do very little for the money they get. The authors write the papers. Volunteer editors serve the role of choosing among submissions and sending material out for review. Reviewers are unpaid. About the only person who gets paid anything who has any important role at all up to and not including the print process itself is the copy editor.

A journal that does not produce print copy would need very little funding. All that is really needed is good IT support, of the kind that could be supplied by institutions like NIH, NSF, and various universities.

The publishing companies have done a good job of insinuating themselves into the process, but I think academics could do a good job of setting up independent peer reviewed non-commercial OpenSource (how many more ways can I say this) publically accessible online ejournals.

I'm a big fan of open access to scientific publications, and the norm for some time, within cognitive science at least, has been to publish penultimate drafts (the last version sent to the publisher) on the web if the journal has some sort of copyright agreement. I don't really think there's a problem with that system, either. The journals get their copyright, and the authors get to publish the paper with all of the important stuff included, so that people can access it for free.

"At least in my field, the publishers really do very little for the money they get."

You may be underestimating what all goes into the publishing process -- even for online publishing. There's also design work, maintaining a web site, office space, overhead, and so on. But it could all probably be done quite a bit cheaper than it is; the question is, how can we move from the current system, dominated by for-profit journals, to an open access system?


Are you sure about that? I don't publish in journals, but Greta has had to sign some pretty restrictive agreements, even recently. Sure, most publishers look the other way when you post stuff online, but I think they still maintain the right to make you take it down. If everyone started doing it, I think they might demand their rights to the work.

Those of us trolling through the blogosphere may be an unrepresentative sample to poll, though!

Almost all my papers are online. If my student Ted Preston is right about the relationship between normative beliefs and behavior (qualms about disgraced fundamentalists aside!), then that's at least tentative evidence that I believe it's morally permissible!


Yes, I should probably put such a disclaimer before all the online polls / studies I do. But it does at least give us a good sense of what our readership thinks.

I wonder what would happen, though, if I turned the question around: Do you post your scholarly journal publications online, even if it violates the agreement you signed with the publisher?