Saturday, August 04, 2012

Authors' expectations

While journals like Medical History disseminate new knowledge and try to achieve fairness for authors and readers, I think we should all be striving for clarity and transparency.
  • People trying to read and cite articles should not have trouble working out what they are looking at, or worrying about whether this version is identical to that version, and so on.
  • Authors who have written for MH in the past should feel confident that their rights have been respected and their work is clearly and accurately published (whether in print or online) in the manner they expected at the time of publication.
  • Authors considering publication in MH in the future should have clear knowledge of the terms under which their papers will be published.  They should be able to answer these questions quickly and easily:
    • Will I have to pay for my article to be published?
    • Will the public have to pay to read my article?
    • Will I own the copyright of my article?
    • Can my article be reproduced, sold or re-sold without my consent or without paying me?
My views on some of the key issues above are laid out briefly in my January 2012 blog post Copyright and Open Access.
I have also tabulated these key issues for a number of journals that publish in my field, in the post Some OA journals that publish on South Asia.
What I discovered while assembling that information is that many journals do not provide clear information on these basic issues.  I think this is most often because the editors are simply ignorant of these matters.  This is not the case with CUP, but it appears to me that their policies err in the other direction, and are over-complex and hard for legally-naive academic authors to understand.  In the case of Medical History it is still the case that the document outlining the journal's policies in this matter contains opacities, if not self-contradictions (see next blog post).  Hopefully these will be ironed out soon.

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