Readers will recall Editor David Linden [ blog ] laying down an assertive editorial on the nature of the scientific publication process when he took up the reins at Journal of Neurophysiology. Now he is pushing to alter the rules of his Journal such that manuscripts that have been deposited in a pre-print archive such as arXiv or Nature Precedings are not excluded from consideration.
Editor Linden has requested our assistance in soliciting feedback on this proposed change which he intends to discuss at an upcoming meeting of the Publications committee of the American Physiological Society. If you have an opinion on this move, please respond to his mini-survey at the bottom of the letter which appears after the jump.
I am writing today to solicit your opinion on an important policy at the Journal of Neurophysiology. Presently, the journal will not review manuscripts that it considers to have undergone "prior publication." For most submissions this is not a problem: brief abstracts presented at meetings like Society for Neuroscience or Keystone conferences or Gordon conferences are not considered prior publication. However, in recent years it has become more popular for authors, particularly in the systems and computational neuroscience communities, to post full-length draft manuscripts on preprint servers like arXiv (www.arxiv.org) or Nature Precedings (precedings.nature.com). This is considered "prior publication" by the policy of the American Physiological Society. Here's the relevant text from the APS author guidelines:
"Material published by the author before submission in the following categories is considered prior publication: 1) articles published in any publication, even online-only, non-peer reviewed publications, such as Nature Precedings or the physics arXiv; 2) articles, book chapters, and long abstracts containing original data in figures and tables, especially in proceeding publications; 3) widely circulated, copyrighted, or archival reports, such as the technical reports of IBM, the preliminary reports of MIT, the institute reports of the US Army, or the internal reports of NASA."
These preprint servers have become a standard initial mode of scientific communication in the physics, astronomy and chemistry communities. They are permanent archives that are moderated (so they do not fill up with spam or political rants) but are not peer-reviewed. Authors submitting manuscripts to preprint servers retain the copyright to their work, which can then be transferred to the publisher when a later version of the work is accepted at a peer-reviewed journal.
Scientists who use preprint servers value the comments and feedback that help them to revise and improve their experiments, models and writing. In this way, preprint servers function similarly to scientific meetings. In many ways, they are better than feedback from a meeting talk because the audience has the chance to carefully pore over the details of the presentation and construct a more useful critique. In terms of citations and establishment of priority, these unreviewed preprints hold the same status as meeting abstracts--they are citable but do not carry the weight of a traditional peer-reviewed publication.
There is little reason to believe that a change of policy to allow preprint server manuscripts at Journal of Neurophysiology will have a negative impact on either the editorial function or the business model of the journal. Institutions are not going to cancel their JN subscriptions in favor of free preprint access. Journal of Neurophysiology should benefit from getting manuscripts that are better for having received more feedback prior to submission and from receiving submissions from authors who otherwise would avoid JN due to the prior publication policy.
Other publishers are rapidly adopting policies that allow preprint sever manuscripts. These include both for-profit publishers like the Nature Publishing Group (Nature, Nature Neuroscience and the other Nature titles), Elsevier (Brain Research, Neuroscience, NeuroImage, Journal of Neurobiology, Hearing Research, Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience) and Springer (Journal of Computational Neuroscience, Neuroinformatics, Brian Structure and Function) as well as scientific societies such as Society for Neuroscience (Journal of Neuroscience), the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and open-access journals (PLOS Biology; Frontiers in Neuroscience, etc.) At present, Journal of Neurophysiology is one of a few remaining neuroscience journals not to adopt this policy.
It is my view that changing the guidelines at Journal of Neurophysiology to allow for submission of preprint server manuscripts can only improve scientific communication and benefit the Journal. It is important to stress that preprint server submission would be voluntary and that the authors' decision to make use of this process would have no bearing on editorial decisions.
The Publications Committee of the American Physiological Society will meet on March 18, 2009 and I have placed a motion to change the guidelines to allow preprint server manuscripts to be reviewed at JN on the agenda. When this issue was considered at the 2008 meeting of the committee, it was rejected. A key factor in the committee's decision will be a measure of where the neuroscience community stands on this issue. I'm asking you to take a moment to register your opinion. You do not have to be a member of APS to vote in this poll. You do not have to be faculty either: students, postdocs and staff are all welcome. You are encouraged to distribute this message to your colleagues. You can vote by filling in the info below and emailing to email@example.com
Thanks for your time and best wishes,
David Linden, Ph.D.
Chief Editor, Journal of Neurophysiology
------ Yes, I support amending the guidelines to allow preprint server manuscripts to undergo review at Journal of Neurophysiology.
------ No, I do not support amending the guidelines to allow preprint server manuscripts to undergo review at Journal of Neurophysiology.
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