Author: Danny Smith

You say tomato, I say accepted manuscript

This is the second of a series of blog posts by Imperial’s Open Access Team for OA Week. Our first post on Publisher Problems can be found here.

What is an accepted manuscript? Depends who you ask…

The REF 2021 open access policy requires authors of journal articles and conference proceedings to deposit their work to an institutional repository within three months of acceptance. The version required for deposit by Research England, and permitted by most publishers, is the accepted manuscript version, but selecting the correct version is sometimes confusing for authors. There’s generally a lack of standardization in publishing, and a good example of this concerns accepted manuscripts. There is, in theory, an agreed definition, as follows:

The version of a journal article that has been accepted for publication in a journal. A second party (the “publisher”—see “Version of Record” below for definition) takes permanent responsibility for the article. Content and layout follow publisher’s submission requirements.

This is taken from NISO-RP-8-2008, or to give it its full title, Journal Article Versions (JAV): Recommendations of the NISO/ALPSP JAV Technical Working Group*. The definition is followed by these notes.

  1. Acceptance must follow some review process, even if limited to a single decision point about whether to publish or not. We recommend that there should be a link from the Accepted Manuscript to the journal’s website that describes its review process
  2. If the Accepted Manuscript (AM) is processed in such a way that the content and layout is unchanged (e.g., by scanning or converting directly into a PDF), this does not alter its status as an AM. This will also apply to “normalized” files where, for example, an author’s Word file is automatically processed into some standardized form by the publisher. The content has not changed so this essentially constitutes a shift of format only, and our terms are format neutral.
  3. This stage is also known as “Author’s Manuscript” by, for example, the NIH, but we believe that the key point is the acceptance of the manuscript by a second party. Elsevier refers to it as “Author’s Accepted Manuscript”. SHERPA/RoMEO refer to it as “Postprint”, but this term is counterintuitive since it implies that it refers to a version that comes after printing.

Author Confusion


Many authors are confused by the details of Green OA, not knowing what version(s) they can share, where they can share them, and how etc. This confusion arises in part because of the various permissions of each publisher, and even each journal within a publisher’s collection. Permissions are an issue for another day, but surely authors’ (and our) lives could be made easier if publishers were to agree on a definition, such as that above (assuming for the moment that the above is satisfactory)? This is indeed the definition used by Taylor & Francis, though other publishers offer their own interpretations of what an accepted manuscript is, increasing author confusion.

Pile of papers
Which version can I upload?

In processing deposits to Spiral, Imperial’s IR, we often have to reject items because the authors have uploaded the incorrect version. We of course contact the author when this happens and request the accepted manuscript. When explaining this we try to use publisher specific details and if possible, give an example. A spreadsheet has been setup for this purpose, here.

It gives definitions of accepted manuscript by publisher with a link to the information on the publisher’s site, and where available, an example, if the publisher provides clear or labelled accepted manuscripts. It’s in its infancy at the moment, but hopefully with community input this can grow to become a useful resource for everyone. Presumably we’re all sending similar communications to authors about accepted manuscripts, so this should hopefully save us some time, and increase author awareness.

Please contribute to the spreadsheet, and do let us know if you have any questions or comments.

*A Recommended Practice of the National Information Standards Organization in partnership with the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers. Prepared by the NISO/ALPSP Journal Article Versions (JAV) Technical Working Group.

A (publisher) problem shared is a problem halved… new community resource

The needs of the OA community have not and are not being met by established publishers, causing OA/SCM teams many headaches in their daily tasks. In a previous role I began to record the various problems I encountered, and I’ve been continuing this work with colleagues at Imperial. Our list currently contains 106 issues with 70 different publishers. Some publishers are only listed once in the document, whilst some repeat offenders feature as many as 7 times.

As we have a fairly large record of problems (and we’re librarians) we’ve decided to try and structure the information, currently recorded in an online spreadsheet, available here:

We’ve added columns for contextual information, such as the type of publisher, their location, whether the problem relates to Gold or Green OA, and if Gold, whether hybrid or pure. This allows us to do some basic analysis on the data, for instance, we can filter to discover that most of the publishers who cause us problems in terms of licensing are small/society outfits based in the USA.

We’ve come up with 7 categories that we use to collate similar problems together, as below.

We record publishers whose basic APC costs we consider to be excessive and also those who have unfair or unusual charges, such as those who charge an additional fee for a CC-BY licence (a cynical attempt to exploit institutional UKRI/COAF OA grants?), compulsory page and colour charges, or APC charges based on article length.

For issues around CC licences, particularly changing them, and other licensing problems such as confusing or restrictive publisher-own Gold licences.

Examples of payment problems include using different systems for APCs and other charges, sending invoices for articles that should be paid via prepay, or a publisher being repeatedly unable to trace payments.

Predominantly for confusing, conflicting or very restrictive copyright/self-archiving policies, such as rolling embargoes or deposit only in closed access repositories, or only on an intranet (me neither).

Simply a way of recording potentially illegitimate publishing entities (PIPEs). PIPEs are often referred to as ‘predatory publishers’, and a list of possible PIPEs is maintained here:

To be listed as a predatory publisher/journal in our list the publisher/journal must have failed several of the checks on the website.

For difficulties in arranging Green/Gold and the processes that we/the publisher go through. Examples include publishers requiring payment to be received before publishing, unintuitive dashboards for prepay schemes, or delays between ordering Gold and receiving an invoice. A problem recorded just this morning regards one publisher’s decision to set an exchange rate from $ to € in January of each year, which is then set until the following January, irrespective of currency fluctuations. This potentially increases costs as well as adding extra administrative burden when processing an invoice charged in €, to be paid in £, for an APC originally advertised in $.

To do with what the publishers actually produce, so for problems with their product, e.g. not stating whether something is CC-BY, broken DOIs, confusing article types, attaching adverts to articles, etc.

The purpose of the spreadsheet was to allow us to see which problems and which publishers were frequently reoccurring so that we could try and locate particular areas that need addressing. The information, it is hoped, will be of use to the rest of the OA community, as well as other interested parties, such as funders, to see how we can collectively petition publishers to change their practices and quicken the transition to a more open system of scholarly communication.

So, please take a look at the sheet for yourselves, here:

Many of the entries were recorded some time ago and may not be up to date, and we would welcome collaboration on the sheet to make it as accurate, current, and in depth as possible – we hope to have a link available on the forthcoming UKCORR resources page soon.

Please do make your own additions/amendments and get in touch and let us know if you have any questions or comments.