The policy of the journal is to consider for publication only original work that has not previously been published. Questions about what constitutes previous publication are arising with increasing frequency because of the growth of electronic publishing and the increasing number of reports and papers being produced by organizations and agencies. This statement provides guidance on this issue.
There are legitimate reasons why research may be disseminated before submission to a journal. Active communication among researchers about preliminary findings or the circulation of draft reports for discussion and critique contributes to the eventual quality of published work. In addition, organizations that support or carry our research have an understandable interest in disseminating their work. From the perspective of journals, these reasons for dissemination must be balanced against two considerations. The first is the value of the peer review process. The rules against prior publication are intended to add some assurance of the credibility of published research.
Papers are often improved during the peer review process, with findings, conclusions, and recommendations sometimes changed in response to reviewers' comments. The public and policymakers might be confused or misled if there were multiple versions of a paper in the public domain.
Second, from a more parochial viewpoint, journal space is limited, and much time and expense are involved in the evaluation, publication, and distribution of journal articles. We must make difficult choices about what to include; there is less value in publishing papers that have already been disseminated to their target audiences.
We discuss here several types of dissemination and provide guidelines with respect to the prior publication question. This discussion is essentially an elaboration of two rules, the first emphasizing previous dissemination of the material, the second stressing disclosure.
- Rule One: If the material in a paper has already been disseminated to a journal's audience, particularly in a format that appears to be a final product, then it is unlikely that a second version will be worth publishing in our journal.
- Rule Two: It is the responsibility of authors to let editors know at the time of submission whether a paper's contents have been previously disseminated in any manner so that the editors can determine whether to proceed with the review process.
Previous Presentations at Meetings
Presentation of a paper at conferences or seminars usually does not jeopardize the possibility of publication.
Dissemination of "working papers" to a limited audience will not ordinarily jeopardize publication. Working paper series are used by many organizations as a means of enabling researchers to obtain critiques from fellow researchers. Working papers covered by this policy are those that are released by the author or an organization rather than by a publisher, are not advertised to the public, and are marked as drafts that are subject to future revision.
Release via the Internet may jeopardize journal publication under some circumstances. Presentation of the work as a final report is a marker of an attempt to reach a wide audience, particularly when combined with efforts to direct traffic to the work (e g., via links on other sites) and efforts to attract attention (e.g., press releases).
In general, when posting on the Internet serves similar functions as presentation at professional meetings - facilitating the development of papers and the improvement of the research, influencing future revisions, and not constituting a "finished" product - it would not be considered prior publication.
Authors who post papers on a Web site and do not want it to constitute prior publication should also post a disclosure statement such as: "This draft paper is intended for review and comments only. It is not intended for citation, quotation, or other use in any form." This statement should be kept on the Web site throughout the review process and until the paper is actually accepted for publication in a journal. Once accepted, authors should post a message to the effect that "A revised final version of this paper will appear in (Journal Name), volume, issue."