Re: Paper not accepted by a journal - still a pre-print?

From: Rob Kling <kling_at_INDIANA.EDU>
Date: Wed, 7 Aug 2002 10:46:04 -0500


I believe that the casual and expanse use of the term preprint to refer to
any manuscript is not very helpful.

The Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition
[Electronic version]1996) defines a preprint as "something printed in
advance; a portion of a work printed and issued before the publication of
the whole."

What would a manuscript be a "preprint of" if it were not subsequently

A preprint refers to a relationship between a manuscript in one location &
another copy of that ms. that is in the process of being (formally)
published elsewhere.

Below is a more elaborate version of this analysis.

Also, see: "Defining and Certifying Electronic Publication in Science"
Prepared by an International Working Group
Mark S. Frankel, Co-Chair American Association for the Advancement of
Science, U.S.A.. Roger Elliott, Co-Chair
International Council for Science, UK , Martin Blume, American Physical
Society, U.S.A. + associates.

/Rob Kling


"When the Stanford Linear Accelerator Laboratory was established in 1962,
its first director, W. Panofsky, requested that the library staff collect
unpublished research reports in high energy physics (Kreitz, Addis, Galic,
& Johnson, 1997; Till, 2001). In the field of economics, several academic
departments developed working paper series in the 1970s. This practice
become common in other fields such as demography and mathematics. These
collections were heterogeneous in their contents. Many of these articles
would be subsequently published in printed conference proceedings, journals
or as book chapters.

Those articles which were variously labelled in different disciplines:
(research) manuscripts, technical reports, working papers, were also at
some stage arguably preprints if their subsequent publication did not
entail substantial revisions. However, some would not be published in any
other form, and consequently should not be called preprints at all. What
would they be preprints of if they were not subsequently published?
Further, if a research memo or technical report was significantly revised
duing editorial review, the original version should not be called a
preprint either."

"In 1969 The American Physical Society Division of Particles and Fields and
the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission sponsored a community-wide distribution
of a weekly list of new research manuscripts received by the Stanford
Linear Accelerator (SLAC). This listing was named Preprints in Particles
and Fields (PPF). PPF listed authors, titles, abstracts and author contact
information to enable subscribers to request the full text of an article of
interest to them. Hundreds of physicists paid an annual subscription fee to
receive PPF weekly by airmail (Till, 2001; Addis, 2002). (PPF continued
hardcopy publication until the Fall 1993.) Not all of the manuscripts that
are listed in PPF are published afterward. This leaves open the question
exactly what are these subsequently unpublished research manuscripts to be
considered as preprints of?

These differences in the nomenclature for research articles i.e., preprints
by high energy physicists and manuscripts, technical reports (or working
papers) by others continues today. Unfortunately, some of this
terminological diversity clouds the discussions of alternative ways to
organize Internet forums to support scholarly communication. .."

"Consider the unusual case in which a scholar writes an article, submits it
to a journal, and has it both accepted for publication and finally
published with no changes (including copyediting and updating references).
A copy of the article in the scholar's file starts out as a research
memorandum (or working paper or technical report) on the day that she
submits it to the journal for publication. When it is accepted for
publication, with no changes, its status changed to that of a preprint
(i.e., a preprint of a forthcoming definitive publication). That is, it
spawned a copy of itself that would appear as a definitive publication in
the journal. When the journal issue that included the article was
published, it became a reprint of that definitive publication.

It is more common for the authors of articles submitted to journals to be
asked to make some changes requested by peer reviewers and editors, or to
initiate some changes on their own. In the social sciences, where many of
the most prestigious journals accept less than 20% of the articles that are
submitted for review, many authors will submit their rejected articles to
other journals. This practice is not uncommon in the natural sciences as
well. Of course, some articles are never accepted for publication. These
articles do not merit the label preprint in any stage before their is a
clear relationship to the article that will be accepted for definitive
publication in a conference proceedings, journal or book. As an article
travels through a peer review process, value is added to it by a
combination of the editorial work that can lead to major or minor changes,
as well as by the "peer-reviewed" status that is bestowed upon it by the
conference or journal.

The Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition
[Electronic version]1996) defines a preprint as "something printed in
advance; a portion of a work printed and issued before the publication of
the whole." High energy physicists gave their research manuscripts a status
boost by referring to them as preprints before they were submitted for and
accepted for publication. For example, according to its official
description, "Recently, fewer than 40% of submitted papers have been
finally accepted for publication in Physical Review Letters (PRL)." It
should not surprise us if many of the research manuscripts that are listed
on PPF and that were originally submitted to PRL were not accepted for
publication in PRL. Perhaps many of these manuscripts rejected by PRL would
be accepted elsewhere, but few of the manuscripts listed on PPF are
actually guaranteed to be preprints of any specific publication when they
are first listed.

Unfortunately, physicists have casually used the term preprint to refer to
research manuscripts whose publication status is similar to articles that
are called research manuscripts, working papers and technical reports in
other fields. For example, the "PREPRINT Network" at Oak Ridge National
Laboratories defines the documents that it helps readers to obtain in these

"preprints, or 'e-prints,' are manuscripts that have not yet been
published, but may have been reviewed and accepted; submitted for
publication; or intended for publication and being circulated for comment."

The PREPRINT Network is a valuable service in the physical sciences; but
its definition of preprint is so elastic that it can refer to any
manuscript, even one that is only posted on an author's personal web site,
and not subsequently published anywhere else.

In this chapter, we will try to use terminology to describe research
documents that can work across many disciplines:
· Article- The common term "article" can implicitly refer to a publication
venue. The Oxford English Dictionary defines an article as "a literary
composition forming materially part of a journal, magazine, encyclopędia,
or other collection, but treating a specific topic distinctly and
independently." We will use the term article in a broader way to refer to
any document that fits the OED's definition, or that is in a form that
could fit the OED's definition if it were published.

· Manuscript - Manuscript is the primary candidate for labeling articles
that authors circulate prior to their acceptance for publication. The term
manuscript is still widely used by journal editors to refer to articles
that are to be submitted and/or are under review. We will use the term
manuscript to refer to articles that have not yet been accepted for
publication in a specific venue as well as to articles that have been
published in an institutionally sponsored venue, such as a working paper
series or an online server for research articles, such as
Electronic versions may be called e-scripts.
· Preprint - We believe that the term preprint should be used in a strict
sense to refer to articles that have been accepted for a specific venue.
Preprint refers to a relationship between two documents, rather than a
feature of a document in isolation. We will use the terms preprint and
e-print conservatively -- to refer to manuscripts in the form in which they
are likely to appear in a conference proceedings, journal or book (whether
in printed form, electronic form, or both). E-print, which some scientists
use to refer to electronic manuscripts, plays off of its resonance with
preprints, and we believe that e-prints should refer to electronic versions
of pre-prints.

The International Working Group was carefully avoiding calling preprints,
as used by high energy physicists, a "definitive publication." In short,
many of today's "preprint networks" and "preprint servers" should be called
"e-script networks" and "e-script servers." These services may include some
preprints and even definitive publications in their corpuses. However,
their defining characteristic is to make available research manuscripts
rapidly and usually inexpensively to readers.


 From an ms. in progress:

"Scholarly Publishing Without Peer Review via the Internet"
Rob Kling
Indiana University - Bloomington
Bloomington, IN 47405

For: Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (ARIST), -(volume 38)
Blaise Cronin and Debora Shaw (Eds.)

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Received on Wed Aug 07 2002 - 16:46:04 BST

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