The Internet has changed the way people publish and share their research, not only in terms of formats (webpage, e-reader, PDF), but also in terms of products (online articles, books, blogs, preprints) and processes (collaborative writing, more precise journal selection, different types of formal/informal review, text-matching checks, different online publishing models). What publishing venues and pathways are now available?
The Internet has not stopped traditional face-to-face meetings via conferences. Going to conferences is invaluable for you to network and learn who is who, and what is happening, in your field. If you present a talk or poster, the feedback can be used to improve your study or manuscript before submission to a peer-reviewed journal. Journals worldwide allow prior appearance of research as conference posters and as abstracts in peer-reviewed conference proceedings (even though they are formally published).
Many journals, however, will not allow you to republish a paper after already publishing a full or partial version in conference proceedings. It would be best to check the online journal guidelines or ask the editorial office (preferably before arranging to present at a conference that publishes full reports). Some journals may ask for a substantial amount of new content to be added before journal submission, and you may need to enclose copies of all related works with your submission and obtain copyright permission from the publisher of the conference proceedings.
Some journals also have rules about not giving additional information to the mass media at or after a conference and before journal publication. Based on the Ingelfinger Rule, not reporting research to the public or news media before official publication in a peer-reviewed journal protects the public from misinformation and allows journals to be the first place to publish the full report. The guidelines of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors explain that some countries and journals have a media embargo (delayed news publication) system to allow time for accurate news writing and wider news distribution.
The coordination of journal publication with, say, medical news reporting in the mass media allows health care professionals to access, verify, and use the original journal article. News embargo systems rely on trust; the Embargo Watch website monitors instances of broken embargoes.
(An extreme example of what not to do is to turn a manuscript into a newspaper advertisement.)
Unfortunately, the Internet has made it easy for fake conferences and conference proceedings to be organized; AuthorAid gives some advice for avoiding "predatory conferences".
Blogs, social platforms, and own websites
Blogs, general social media, scholarly collaboration networks (e.g., ResearchGate, Academia), researchers' own websites, and institutional websites are popular for sharing research ideas and findings widely, especially as nontechnical summaries after formal publication. However, whether the full text of a published journal article can be shared directly on those sites depends on the copyright and licensing arrangements of the journal.
Postpublication promotion of your research in the form of lay summaries and news stories can also be done on dedicated news sites such as EurekAlert! and AlphaGalilieo, and other platforms such as Kudos and Impactstory.
A problem for people who share research findings in websites and social media before formal publication is that these postings are not peer reviewed, may constitute prior publication, and could be plagiarized by others but not be detected by text-matching software because they may not be included in the comparison database.
Two cases reported to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) have involved a research paper that plagiarized blog content and an author who posted the accepted version of a paper on a website without permission. Again, it is best to check with the journal what they deem as prior publication and what versions of a paper can be self-archived and when.
Reputable journals that publish prospective human trials require the advance online registration of the study protocol in a clinical trials database/registry (e.g., www.clinicaltrials.gov), before the actual study started. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors does not consider trial registration and certain registry declarations of the results to be prior publication. The norm is for interventional (experimental) clinical trials to be registered, but some journals also encourage human observational (nonexperimental) studies to be registered.
Online repositories such as Dryad, Figshare, and Zenodo accept data files, slidesets, papers, media files, posters, and other research outputs. Some repositories, including the three named examples, are integrated with ORCID, where you can keep a complete research record under a unique personal number. The objects that you self-archive are not peer reviewed but receive digital object identifiers (DOIs) and are hence persistently findable and linkable. Files are citable, can be freely shared, and can be used as supplementary files during journal submissions. Some repositories may be partnered with journals.
Preprints (or "working papers") are drafts of manuscripts that authors may upload/post/deposit to general or discipline-specific preprint servers, or to own websites or institutional or commercial/noncommercial data repositories. Preprints have not been formally peer reviewed and must not have been formally published by a peer-reviewed journal. Using preprint servers, authors can usually post revisions of preprints but previous versions are retained for reference.
The arXiv site is the most well known preprint server and was established in 1991 for physics, mathematics, computer science, and other disciplines. Newer preprint servers include bioRxiv (for biology), PsyArXiv (for psychology), SocArXiv (for social sciences) and engrXiv (for engineering).
In some preprint servers, all preprints receive DOIs and readers can directly post informal feedback, rather like the peer feedback given at conferences. To encourage comments and feedback on preprints, the site Academic Karma provides one convenient place to access a number of preprint servers and for readers to submit open (i.e., not anonymous) reviews.
Some funding agencies (e.g., Wellcome and the Medical Research Council in the UK and the National Institutes of Health in the US) allow preprints to be cited as research outputs in grant and award applications and in project reports. Many publications and journals also allow preprints to be cited in the reference list of submitted papers; to be sure, please check the relevant author guidelines.
Some journals do not regard preprints as prior publication, as long as authors do not promote their work to the public and media. If a preprint is subsequently peer reviewed and published in a journal, the author may be asked to indicate on the preprint that the paper has now been published and also to link the preprint to the DOI of the published article. Some journals allow, and some require, the preprint to be replaced by the accepted version (or "postprint") of the manuscript, which has been peer reviewed, revised according to peer review advice, and perhaps also copy edited. The timing of this replacement will be stated in the journal guidelines.
Some journals, however, do regard preprints as prior publication. Be sure to check the SHERPA/RoMEO database and individual journal websites before uploading a preprint, and declare any relevant preprints at the time of journal submission for full transparency.
Because preprints are publicly available, some journals have modified their embargo policies -- for example, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) asks authors not to post the accepted version of a manuscript to a repository until after an embargo period. If a draft had been posted as a preprint before acceptance by PNAS, then the journal's news/media embargo does not apply.
Open access repositories
Some funders require that research outputs be made freely available, so "green open access" journals may allow authors to self-archive preprints and accepted versions -- but not the final published article ("version of record"). "Gold open access" journals allow self-archiving of the final version, for noncommercial use or also commercial use. Please consult individual journal policies for special arrangements to comply with open access mandates of research funders.
For example, if research was funded by the US National Institutes of Health, publishers or authors would need to upload relevant accepted manuscripts or final published articles to the PubMedCentral repository.
Theses and dissertations
Although not formally published, student theses and dissertations may be available online via university libraries or national repositories. Generally in the UK, theses are what PhD candidates write and dissertations are what Master students write, but in the US, the terms are switched around. In some countries, the terms are interchangeable.
Most journals allow manuscript submissions that have been derived from degree work, but be sure by checking journal guidelines and by declaring the origin of the work in your cover letter. Beware of unethical vanity presses and print-on-demand/print-to-order services that may invite you to self-publish your thesis as a book without peer review or editing, and maybe after copyright transfer and payment.
Some researchers, especially in the humanities and social sciences, formally publish their work as book chapters, books, and monographs rather than journal articles. After obtaining necessary permissions, some authors publish books containing all or parts of previously published journal articles. Academic books of reputable publishers undergo peer review, but books tend not to be cited as much as journal articles.
Formal publication of research is most often done in peer-reviewed journals of publishers, companies, societies, and universities. There is more to selecting the best target journal than simply looking at the Journal Impact Factor. Some institutions, publishers, organizations, and individuals have signed the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) statement and are moving away from tracking journal bibliometrics.
Many types of journals exist -- for example, by topic and readership, by article type (e.g., review journals and some methodology journals do not publish original research), by mode of peer review, by medium (print, online, or both), and by publishing model (open access, subscription, pay-per-view). A major difference between some journals is their selection criteria. In addition to assessing academic/scientific quality (which could be called objective or technical peer review), some journals emphasize potential importance or impact, or newsworthiness (which could be called subjective, nontechnical, or journalistic peer review).
New types of online journals include "overlay journals" that organize formal peer review of preprints and their subsequent formal publication. Several journals use postpublication peer review (pioneered by F1000Research) and are not strictly preprint servers but some have been included in the search.bioPreprint and PrePubMed preprint search engines.
Your goal is to publish in a quality journal that is relevant to your work and your intended audience, so that you gain readers' interest, trust, and future citations and perhaps collaborations. This Edanz infographic on journal selection offers advice on when and how to select appropriate journals to save you time, increase your chances of acceptance, and increase the visibility of your research.
Finally, remember that the policies of journals vary regarding what you can self-archive and share online, and those policies are related to open access status. You may be allowed to upload a preprint, accepted version (with or without an embargo), or final version (with or without an embargo), and you may be able to post it on your own website, a public or private institutional repository, or some other website or sharing platform. To find out the open access status and preprint/postprint policy of your target journal, please check the journal's website or the SHERPA/RoMEO database.
You can also look up sharing permissions of specific articles (via their DOIs) from journals of publishers participating in the How Can I Share It website.
Unfortunately, the popularity of online open access journals has also led to the development of journals that cheat authors. To test if a publication is a reputable one, you can use the ThinkCheckSubmit guidelines. A future Edanz Academy Blog and infographic will give some tips on identifying unethical journals.
Dr Trevor Lane
Education Director and Senior Publishing Consultant
Note: Edanz Group is a corporate associate member of COPE, and Dr Trevor Lane is an individual associate member and Council Member of COPE. COPE is a founding and contributing organization of Think. Check. Submit. Photo credit: istockphoto/jacoblund