SocArXiv policy on withdrawing papers

The Center for Open Science has added withdrawal functionality to its preprint service platform. We are glad to have this capacity, but we will not be permitting the withdrawal of papers in routine cases. Withdrawing is a convenient option if an author makes an error in the submission process, for example accidentally submitting the wrong version; if a paper has not yet been approved, we are happy to accommodate such requests. However, if a paper has already been accepted, and thus entered the scholarly record, we will follow the policy below.

Unfortunately, authors now see a large “Withdraw Paper” button on the page where they edit their paper entries. We are working with COS to change how this option is presented to authors, and also to make users aware of our policy. Posting a paper on SocArXiv is easy, which brings great benefit to the thousands of people who have shared their work. However, authors should be aware that posting papers is generally nonreversible. We offer this policy and its explanation to help further this understanding.

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SocArXiv Withdrawal Policy

May 25, 2019

In case of revision, the current version will be found here.

The Center for Open Science (COS), which hosts SocArXiv, has enabled the withdrawal of papers from its paper services. Authors who wish to withdraw their papers may request a withdrawal from the SocArXiv moderators, according to the terms of this policy.

Permission for withdrawal will only be granted in the very rare circumstance in which we have a legal obligation to remove a paper, such as if it contains private personal information or it is subject to a substantiated copyright claim. In cases where a paper is withdrawn, it will be replaced by a “tombstone” page (here is an example), which includes the original paper’s metadata (author, title, abstract, DOI, etc.), and the reason for withdrawal. After that point, the paper will be locked to further modification.

Papers that infringe on copyrights will be removed in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, under the Center for Open Science terms of use, available here.

If authors wish to withdraw papers for other reasons — for example, if they are not confident of the findings or otherwise no longer endorse the paper — they should post a new “version” of the paper that is a single page announcing the withdrawal. They may, for example, request that readers do not further cite, use, or distribute previous versions (which will remain available under the list of previous versions). Instructions on how to post a new version are available here; we are happy to help authors do this.

This policy is very similar to the retraction of an article by an academic journal, which only rarely involves removal of access to the original paper, instead generally relying on a notification of retraction in its place.

Instructions for request a withdrawal are available here: http://help.osf.io/m/preprints/l/1069374-withdrawing-a-preprint

Why doesn’t SocArXiv let authors decide when to withdraw a paper?

Papers on SocArXiv are part of the scholarly record. Upon being posted, they are given a Digital Object Identifier (DOIs), and a persistent URL from COS. The link is automatically tweeted by our announcement account, and the system also generates a citation reference. The document is immediately citable and retrievable by human or machine agents. In short, posting a paper on SocArXiv is a research event that cannot be undone by deleting the document. Preserving the scholarly record is our obligation to the scholarly community.

Authors who post papers on SocArXiv are notified, at the final point of submission, that they will be “unable to delete the preprint file, but [they] can update or modify it.” Authors also are required to confirm that all contributors have agreed to share the paper, and that they have the right to share it. (All co-authors have the same rights to distribute a copyrighted work, unless a subsequent agreement has intervened, so an objection to the posting by a co-author is not the basis for removal.)

The Internet has made it possible to distribute work without relinquishing the original digital file, which makes it possible to delete the version readers access — a privilege that was not available when research was distributed in printed form. However, the Internet has also made it difficult or impossible to remove all traces or copies of a digital document. This is a challenging environment for authors.

We are sympathetic to the desire of some authors to remove copies of their earlier work from circulation, for a variety of reasons, and we appreciate that our policy may cause frustration. We hope authors will carefully consider it before they post their work.

Our policy is very similar to that employed by the older and more established preprint servers, arxiv and bioRxiv.

bioRxiv’s FAQ page reads:

Can I remove an article that has already posted on bioRxiv?

No. Manuscripts posted on bioRxiv receive DOI’s and thus are citable and part of the scientific record. They are indexed by services such as Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic Search, and Crossref, creating a permanent digital presence independent of bioRxiv records. Consequently, bioRxiv’s policy is that papers cannot be removed. Authors may, however, have their article marked as “Withdrawn” if they no longer stand by their findings/conclusions or acknowledge fundamental errors in the article. In these cases, a statement explaining the reason for the withdrawal is posted on the bioRxiv article page to which the DOI defaults; the original article is still accessible via the article history tab. In extremely rare, exceptional cases, papers are removed for legal reasons.

At this writing, just 32 out of 50,401 preprints on bioRxiv have been withdrawn, a rate of 6 per 10,000.

On arXiv, the instructions read:

Articles that have been announced and made public cannot be completely removed. A withdrawal creates a new version of the paper marked as withdrawn. That new version displays the reason for the withdrawal and does not link directly to the full text. Previous versions will still be accessible, including the full text.

On the other hand, at least one paper service, Elsevier’s SSRN (formerly the Social Science Research Network), allows authors to delete their papers from their repository immediately for any reason (FAQ). Similarly, some authors choose to distribute their work on their own websites, where they have more complete control over the contents. We believe these approaches put the needs of the author of over those of the research community. While a reasonable choice in some cases, this represents a philosophy different from ours.

We want an open, equitable, inclusive scholarly ecosystem in which people are free to share and use information as freely as possible. We have created this policy to serve that goal.

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