Saturday, February 20, 2010

Journal authors may not get pdfs of their articles

I just saw a post from 2008 in which Lisa Wynn, author of a paper in the Journal of Social Archaeology, complains that she was not provided with a pdf of her article by the publisher (Sage). This was posted on Culture Matters, and also on It seems that Sage provides authors with a proprietory application that allows one to print one's article on a single computer, but not save it or send it to colleagues. I guess it is just one more example of how commercial journal publishers rip off academic authors. First, they make money off of our unpaid research efforts, and second, they try to limit our own use of our intellectual products.

Several solutions come to mind. Lisa Wynn, the author in question, suggests boycotting Sage journals. I use the SPARC authors addendum, an attachment to copyright agreement with publishers. This give the author more rights than is typical with commercial publishers. Most journal publishers have gone along, but when a publisher refuses to honor the addendum, I will let you guess what I do about it.

But on a fundamental level I think authors should take their professional work into their own hands. Scan your Sage (or other) paper to create your own pdf reprint, and then post it on your website (or on Academia, edu, or on Selected Works, or anywhere you can). I notice that Lisa Wynn does not make her papers available to download on her website.

Make your work available as widely as possible, regardless of whether commercial publishers may want to limit the visibility of research they publish. Whose research is it anyway?


ArchAsa said...

This is such an important subject. As you point out it is amazing the liberties publishers can take with their contributors. What other commersial actor can expect to be given a product for free and assuming 95% of the rights (sometimes 100% of the rights) to it? Shame on them but double shame on us in the academic community for letting them.

But as you say, we share the responsibilty. There is LinkedIn and Academia.edy and ResearchGate and several other venues to make your work public, even if you don't have the time and energy to make your own homepage.

Thank you for the tip about the appendum. Noone is teaching us about these things...

Dorothea said...

It may also be worth pointing out that Sage is one of the publishers suing Georgia State University over its e-reserves and course-management-system practices.

Stevan Harnad said...


For pale-green publishers like SAGE
simply deposit postprint (refereed final draft), in your institutional repository, immediately upon acceptance for publication, and, if you wish to honor the embargo, set access to the deposit as "Closed Access" instead of "Open Access." During the 12-month embargo, authors can provide "Almost-Open-Access" to individual eprint requesters through the repository's semi-automated "fair dealing" button.

Anastasia said...

The funny thing is that most of us, when we contribute e.g. to an edited volume, we don't get paid but also we never sign any legal paper waving away our copyright and right to make our work available as we like.

Still, publishers try to scare us off posting OUR papers on OUR websites! The newest trend I notice is that they claim that the specific .pfd version of our paper is their copyright, so we cannot use it. As if it were not us who did the final proofreading and all the work in-between!