Request for feedback: Biotropica & preprint servers

Photo by Sean MacEntee

Photo by Sean MacEntee

In many scientific fields it is common to post drafts of manuscripts to preprint archives (e.g., arXiv) prior to their submission to scientific journals for peer-review and publication. Posting to preprint archives has many advantages, which include:

  • claiming intellectual precedence
  • making scientific advances more broadly and rapidly accessible
  • allowing scientists to get feedback from the community prior to submission

These advantages are very nicely laid out in an excellent blog post by Philippe Desjardins-Proulx, in which he also points out that while journals such as Nature and PNAS allow for submission of manuscripts that have been previously posted to preprint repositories, many ecological journals have inexplicably balked at doing so. Fortunately, this seems to be changing and two leading journals in our field — Ecology and the Journal of Ecology — have recently revised their submission policies (see here and here).  I’d like to propose that Biotropica do the same, and formally adopt a policy to allow submission to our journal of manuscripts that have previously been posted to preprint servers such as arXiv, PeerJ PrePrints, and bioRxiv. This post is also a call to request feedback from the community on adopting such a policy.

The Journal of Ecology, which is also published by Wiley, has a very clear and explicit policy:

BES journals do not consider for publication articles that have already been published in substantial part or in full within a scientific journal, book or similar entity. However, posting an article on the author’s personal website or in an institutional repository is not viewed as prior publication and such articles can therefore be submitted. The journals will also consider for publication manuscripts that have been posted in a recognized preprint archive (such as arXiv and PeerJ PrePrints), providing that upon acceptance of their article for publication the author is still able to grant the BES an exclusive licence to publish the article, or agree to the terms of an OnlineOpen agreement and pay the associated fee.

It is the responsibility of authors to inform the journal at the time of submission if and where their article has been previously posted and, if the manuscript is accepted for publication in a BES journal authors are required to provide a link to the final manuscript alongside the original preprint version.

Is there any reason we shouldn’t adopt a similar policy? Please provide feedback in the comments below.

H/T to Ethan White, whose tweets and writing first brought this issue and the post by P D-P to my attention.

UPDATE (11/19): See this Nature News article on BioRxiv (H/T David Gibson)

UPDATE2 (11/19): Ethan White has posted a concern on the JoE page regarding the “Exclusive Licence” part of the policy. You can read it here.