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Journals in Physics and Engineering, and Preprint Servers Like arXiv

Hi all,


1. In the past, we have had quite some discussion regarding both open-access and open-access journals. However the slant in this blog post is different. I am not concerned here much about open-access journals per say.

Here, I am concerned about the policies that the prominent commercial journals keep regarding posting preprints on the Internet before these articles are submitted to them. I would like to know about policies kept in this regard by the commercial journals in the fields of physics, mechanics, and engineering (including software engineering, computational science and engineering, etc.).


2. The place of "Nature" among journals is pre-eminent. People, even those at highest ranked universities, with pride state acceptance of their work at "Nature." It also happens, I guess, to be the oldest continuously published scientific journal (older than its closest competitors, e.g., Science).

"Nature Physics," these days, does allow putting your pre-prints on arXiv. Since 2010, Nature Physics has a policy that says that:

"...any submission to Nature Physics or its sister journals may be posted, in that original submitted form, on the preprint server (although we do ask that the final, revised and accepted version is not posted until six months after publication in the journal; the published version, in the Nature Physics layout, may not be posted)." [^]

Also that:

"You are welcome to post pre-submission versions or the original submitted version of the manuscript on a personal blog, a collaborative wiki or a preprint server at any time (but not subsequent pre-accept versions that evolve due to the editorial process)." [^].

Reasonable enough! (BTW, no, I am not a socialist. In fact, I consider myself a capitalist, in Ayn Rand's sense of the term.)


3. Now I know that many other journals of a similar standing---most notably, "Science"---do not have a clear general policy that allows for doing so:

"Posting of a paper on the Internet may be considered prior publication that could compromise the originality of the Science submission, although we do allow posting on not-for-profit preprint servers in many cases. Please contact the editors for advice about specific cases."  [^]


4. I tried to locate for myself if other journals had any policy statement on this matter. These journals most notably included: "PRL," "Foundations of Physics," "PNAS," etc. I could not succeed doing so. (The information may be there, but it is hard to find. Even on "Science" mag Web site, it's a few links deeper and not at all obvious, whereas at "Nature," it's more or less very easily accessible starting from the home page.)


5. So, here is my request:

Are you aware of policies in this regard maintained by the journals which you help edit or to which you often submit your articles---esp. the journals from the mechanics and engineering fields? What are these policies like? Care to share (about those policies)? BTW, here, also the journals on computational mechanics and those dealing with software in engineering, are to be included.

Does posting a preprint of a paper at iMechanica disqualify submitting it to the journals that iMechanicians often use? How about posting it at arXiv?

What if I discuss the basic germ of an idea itself here at iMechanica, even though it's not written in the format of a paper? How strict or lenient are the views regarding such pre-submission publication that the journals in Mechanics field take? How do you know---in the sense, to what extent could I be reassured?

And, finally, how does the iMechanica Creative Commons License work out for this situation? I guess that at iMechanica it's the CC BY-NC-SA license [^] that we follow/require, and not the CC BY-NC-ND one [^]. What if I wish to publish at iMechanica, but only with the latter (more restrictive) license? (However, please note, it's not just the policy of iMechanica that is important to me; I actually am more concerned with the preceding questions.)


Thanks in advance for any information and clarifications.





RoMEO list is probably what you need:

Certainly not.

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May be it is not what you need, but it is certainly what you have asked.

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From the Elsevier authors' page:

" What rights do I retain as a journal author*?"

  • the right to make copies and distribute copies of the journal
    article (including via e-mail) to research colleagues, for personal use
    by such colleagues for scholarly purposes*;
  • the right to post a pre-print
    version of the journal article on Internet websites including electronic
    pre-print servers
    , and to retain indefinitely such version on such
    servers or sites for scholarly purposes*
  • the right to post a revised personal
    version of the text of the final journal article (to reflect changes
    made in the peer review process) on your personal or institutional
    website or server for scholarly purposes*,

In their section on electronic preprints:

  • Preprint of an article doesn't count as prior publication
  • Authors don't have to remove electronic preprints from publicly accessible servers
  • Articles are edited and peer-reviewed to give the quality the audience expects

ASME/ASCE journals are significantly more restrictive.

However, editors of journals may not know about these policies and it's generally safer not to communicate your results until the paper has been accepted.  

In mechanics the goal of publishing seems not to be rapid comunication of progress but the accumulation of brownie points.  The failure of iMechanica to attract a larger following of mechanicians and the limited number of papers posted on this site proves that point.

-- Biswajit

Thanks, Biswajit.

Yet, I think they (the editors) might be forgiving of any prior discussion in an informal way here at iMechanica, right? I mean suppose I discuss some (even most) aspects of a paper, but without putting it in the form of a preprint as such. May be, it's just an internal report that still needs to be enhanced and polished with a more scholarly kind of discussion, etc. Suppose I share it here (or via my personal Web site, with the distribution qualified with the most restrictive Creative Commons license, more restrictive than iMechanica's). How would the editors then typically view such a thing?

... As a matter of fact, I have an example or two in mind.

I was thinking of putting on the Web a 3-page extended abstract for a planned paper. I had submitted the abstract at an international conference held in India. It got accepted there. However, since I could not find the time to finish the planned work, I withdrew it, well in time. (The work was about development of a toy pedagogical software, and the extended summary reads mostly like a somewhat detailed functional spec. Not too detailed, but enough for a smart programmer to be able to build something like that separately on his own.). Suppose none steals it---none else implements it or sends any paper based on this idea. Suppose I then prepare a full-length paper and send it to a journal. How are the editors likely to view it? What if I put the extended abstract here at iMechanica (and not at my personal Web site)?

A second example concerns development of my idea concerning the physical meaning of the concept of potential. Suppose I post a preliminary draft here and invite discussions. If an idea is conceptually novel, it's better to anticipate the views/objections that other people might have so that these can be addressed in a better manner in the paper. So, I post it here in that spirit. I then refine it and send it to a journal in the mechanics field (not too sure which one, but assume that some such a commercial journal does exist). How about this example? How would the editors typically look at it?

I mean, all papers are not of the same kind. I can understand if someone puts up a paper disclosing a lot of crucial experimental data or an entire mathematical model including its derivation, on the Web (e.g. here at iMechanica), and then submits it to the journal, and if they don't like that kind of a prepublication. In the first case, there can be tricky issues to do with the funding agency's rights and the Journal's. In the second, there can be the issue of novelty being lost. So, objections in such cases can be understandable. (For the mathematical derviation, perhaps not even in this case, provided no funding agency is involved and you are distributing it with the most restrictive CC license from your personal Web site). In any case, my two examples seem to be different. Any thoughts?



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