Re: non-intuitive terms "pre-print" and "post-print"

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2008 14:07:46 -0400

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The subclassification -- Draft \ Submitted \\\ Accepted \ Published \\ Update -- is useful and welcome for many purposes. But for OA self-archiving the only *essential* distinction is whether it is pre- or post-refereeing, and that's exactly what preprint and postprint (if carefully and correctly defined) means.

Until we have very high and reliable OA self-archiving rates, we cannot overload already sluggish authors with having to do or know anything more than necessary. (The two main retardants on self-archiving are already (1) unfounded author worries about copyright and (2) unfounded author worries about how much time and effort it takes to deposit.)

IRs can configure themselves to include fields for all the distinctions you mention below (and more) and they are definitely useful. But for OA they are not necessary -- and at this delicate stage they (and anything else that is unnecessary) can only serve as a deterrent to already-sluggish self-archiving.

If I had to say what was holding up OA growth the most -- today and for the past several years -- it is a failure to separate the essentials from the incidentals. As a consequence, we have lots of attention paid to the incidentals... and IRs that are near-empty of the essentials.

A ltittle more patience. Let's get these IRs filled with their essential target content, and then we can turn our attention to the fine-tuning.

Stevan Harnad
On 08-04-24, at 13:39, Frances Shipsey wrote:

Dear All

Some alternative terms for the stages of journal articles, as proposed by the VERSIONS Project in the Versions Toolkit, which is available as a resource for authors, are:

Draft - (Early version circulated as work in progress)
Submitted Version - (The version that has been submitted to a journal for peer review)
Accepted Version - (The author-created version that incorporates referee comments and isthe accepted for publication version)
Published Version - (The publisher-created published version)
Updated Version - (A version updated since publication)

The terms are based on researchers' responses to a survey question about how they describe their own work. Preprint isa termused by authors, but postprint is not understood outside the digital repository community in my experience. I think it's abarrier to deposit of papers because it appears jargonistic and is not sufficientlyintuitive for busy academic authors.

The VERSIONS terms above are intended to be used when discussing deposit in open access repositories with authors. They maintain a clear division based on the refereeing activity(between the submitted and accepted versions). They should alsohelp to differentiate between the publisher PDF and the author's accepted version. The terms Submitted Version and Accepted Version map reasonably neatly to thejargon terms 'preprint' and 'postprint', as used among the digital repositories community.

Best wishes


Frances Shipsey
eServices Librarian
London School of Economics and Political Science
10 Portugal Street
London WC2A 2HD

t: +44(0)20 7955 6915
f: +44(0)20 7955 7454

From: Repositories discussion list [mailto:JISC-REPOSITORIES_at_JISCMAIL.AC.UK] On Behalf Of Talat Chaudhri [tac]
Sent: 24 April 2008 08:52
Subject: Re: non-intuitive terms "pre-print" and "post-print"

From: Stevan Harnad []
Sent: 23 April 2008 17:53
To: Talat Chaudhri [tac]
Subject: Re: non-intuitive terms "pre-print" and "post-print"

Dear All:

Yes, it would have been better to have had more transparent terms form the outset, but "preprint" -- meaning mostly "unrefereed, unpublished draft", has been in use for nearly 20 years now, by the physicists, and postprint, meaning "post-refereeing draft" has been in use for almost a decade now. Moreover, the Publisher "Green" policies are based on preprint and postprint permissions.

Yes, both authors and publishers sometimes misunderstand, exactly as Talat says: They think preprint means the prepublication final draft. In fact that is the only potential point of ambiguity. Unrefereed draft is clearly "pre-print" and "post-print" is clearly refereed. (The other mistike is to thinkthat the postprint necessarily means only the publisher's PDF.)

But I think it is far too late to change terminology. We should simply make sure we understand that the pre- and the post- refers to *refereeing* as the boundary, not "prninting", and that both are "eprints" (hence not "prints") and that we have to clearly define, every time, that an eprint is a preprint before refereeing and a postprint after refereeing: refereeing is the watershed, not "print" publication.

It is fully comprehensible, if clearly explained (and clearly understood by the explainer!).

Stevan Harnad
PS Talat, please post my reply if it does not go through to the list. Ta.

On 23-Apr-08, at 12:14 PM, Talat Chaudhri [tac] wrote:

Dear all,

Attention has been drawn once again to the non-intuitive nature of our terms ?pre-print? and ?post-print?. In our terms, as we all understand well in repository circles, these mean respectively ?author?s version as sent to publisher before peer review? and ?author?s version as sent to publisher following peer review?. It has nonetheless been noted many times on various mailing lists that authors (and others) often misunderstand our use of the terms.

On the basis of intuitive word formation, one would expect ?pre-print? to mean the version prior to printing (rather than prior to peer review) and ?post-print? to mean the version after printing (rather than after peer review). Since the author?s intervention is required between these two processes in order to correct and then re-send the manuscript in a new version, it is counter-intuitive to view peer review as part of the printing process, which is what is conceptually required in order to apply the term ?pre-print? to the unrefereed paper. Secondly, the term ?post-print? directly implies the form that is created by and exists as a result of printing, which strongly suggests the final PDF. (That PDF is a poor format for preservation is a quite separate issue.) It does not matter, incidentally, that ?printing? may actually mean creating a PDF for an electronic journal: we should see the creation of the final branded version as ?printing? whatever the eventual medium of publication, if we are going to unde
rstand the natural progressions of language that lead people to analyse word meanings.

It is clear that the preceding paragraph does not describe the ?proper? use of these terms by the repository community. We must therefore ask ourselves if these are appropriate terms to use publicly, since many repository managers have reported misunderstandings based on these terms (as we may extrapolate from the incorrect assumption made by certain publishers reported below by Stevan Harnad). I am by no means the first to suggest that we need a more apt, and perhaps granular, set of terms of reference in order to avoid confusing our authors. I know, for instance, that those involved with versioning projects have already made similar suggestions. I am often left to work out on my own whether an author has or has not sent me what they have said they have sent, which could be avoided entirely if the terms were made more abundantly clear.

Perhaps we would be best using ?pre-refereed? and ?post-refereed? as the basic terms. We could then say ?post-refereed author?s version? and ?publisher?s final PDF? or similar phrases. I think a lot of repository managers already use ?author?s final version/format? and ?publisher?s final version/format? in this way. Naturally, I don?t suggest that we actually redefine ?pre-print? and ?post-print? more intuitively as described above, because they have had currency already and this would only add to the confusion that already exists. I am simply saying that we should try to keep these terms to ourselves as repository jargon, while using more intuitive terminology when dealing with academics and with other end-users of our repositories, so as not to create room for error. It would not hurt, though, to give preference to the clearer terms even in dealings with other repository professionals. New repository managers, of whom we hope there will be many, would certainly benefit too. After all, these are only terms,
 and the best terms are the ones with the clearest meanings.

I hope these remarks, while not especially original, will be useful in stimulating debate on how to avoid this kind of confusion. Thanks,


From:American Scientist Open Access Forum [mailto:AMERICAN-SCIENTIST-OPEN-ACCESS-FORUM_at_LISTSERVER.SIGMAXI.ORG]On Behalf OfStevan Harnad
Sent:22 April 2008 15:36
Subject:Re: Publisher's requirements for links from published articles

SHERPA RoMEO "Green" is not quite the right category, because it means "BOTH postprint-Green AND preprint-Green" whereas what you should be covering is postprint-Green, whether or not the publisher also happens to be preprint-Green, and you should also look carefully at the preprint Greens, because many of them mean "postprint" (author's final refereed draft) even though they say "preprint" (unrefereed draft) wrongly thinking that "postprint" means publisher's PDF!

Dr Talat Chaudhri, Ymgynghorydd Cadwrfa / Repository Advisor
Tm Cynorthwywyr Pwnc ac E-Lyfrgell / Subject Support and E-Library Team
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Received on Thu Apr 24 2008 - 19:33:06 BST

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