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An Introduction to Author Rights in Scientific Journals


Andres Pagan, Senior Associate Editor

June 2023

Scientific journals play a pivotal role in disseminating research findings and advancing knowledge. However, the issue of author rights has long been a matter of concern within the scientific community. Below we explore the importance of author rights when publishing in scientific journals, highlighting the challenges faced by researchers and the initiatives aimed at addressing these challenges. By understanding the evolving landscape of author rights, we can better empower researchers, promote collaboration, and foster open science.

The traditional, subscription-based model
Historically, authors would transfer their copyright to scientific journals upon publication, relinquishing control over their own work. This practice limited authors' ability to share their research freely, reuse their own content, or distribute it to wider audiences. Consequently, researchers faced barriers in accessing their own work or incorporating it into teaching materials or subsequent publications.

Evolving Perspectives
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the need to revise traditional publishing practices to support author rights. Various initiatives have emerged to empower researchers and advocate for fairer copyright agreements. One such initiative is the Open Access movement, which promotes free and unrestricted access to scholarly research. Open Access encourages authors to retain their copyrights and share their work openly, thus increasing visibility, citation rates, and potential collaborations.

Licensing Options—Creative Commons
Creative Commons (CC) licenses offer a practical solution to author rights challenges. These licenses allow authors to retain their copyright while granting permissions to others to use, share, or adapt their work under specific conditions. By utilizing CC licenses, authors can strike a balance between protecting their intellectual property and promoting the broader dissemination of their research.

Preprints and Postprints
Preprints, early versions of research papers shared before formal peer review, have gained popularity as a means to accelerate research dissemination. They empower authors by enabling them to share their findings rapidly, receive feedback, and establish priority. Postprints, on the other hand, refer to the final version of an article after peer review but before the publisher's formatting. Both preprints and postprints contribute to author rights by allowing researchers to freely share their work while preserving their intellectual contributions.

Collaborative Research and Data Sharing
Author rights extend beyond copyright issues and encompass data sharing and collaboration. Transparent data sharing not only promotes reproducibility but also enhances the quality and impact of scientific research. Initiatives such as the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) principles and data repositories encourage researchers to share their data, ensuring long-term accessibility and maximizing its potential for future discoveries.

Author rights in scientific journals are crucial for empowering researchers and advancing open science. By advocating for fair copyright agreements, utilizing Creative Commons licenses, embracing preprints and postprints, and promoting collaborative research and data sharing, the scientific community can create a more inclusive and impactful publishing environment.

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