The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) has released a discussion document on preprints. It offers a useful synopsis on the context and rationale for preprints, as well as some common challenges and ethical issues.
I hope journals and publishers will read and follow their guidance here. In particular the ethical notes that:
- Preprints are generally not considered “publications,” so the papers can be submitted to journals.
- However, preprints do establish “precedence,” so they should be cited by authors who are aware of them.
COPE doesn’t go so far as to recommend that journals accept preprinted papers, but they urge journals to make their policies explicit:
As the preprint landscape continues to evolve, journals may also wish to raise awareness of preprints among their editorial teams, authors, reviewers, and readers via editorials, webinars, etc. Clear policies in author and reviewer guidelines will not only clarify expectations but also provide a framework for handling submissions consistently.
As we note on our FAQ page, American Sociological Association journal policy allows consideration of papers that have been publicly posted, as long as they are not peer-reviewed:
ASA authors may post working versions of their papers on their personal web sites and non-peer-reviewed repositories. Such postings are not considered by ASA as previous publication.
By our accounting, the top sociology journals all currently allow prepublication archiving of papers.
The COPE advice for authors is also good. In short:
- Be aware of preprint server and journal policies.
- Read your copyright agreements.
- When posting preprints, follow standard ethical practices for research integrity and author attribution.
Our advice goes further, advising researchers to: post papers on SocArXiv or another preprint server, publish in journals that permit distribution of papers before and after publication (we provide DOI linking to facilitate discovery and metrics), use unrestricted licenses to maximize distribution of your work, and link your papers to publicly available research materials (here’s a basic tutorial).