On Reposting and Republishing

February 19, 2013

You will have noticed that I repost my old blog entries with frequency. I do so mostly when I think it has been long enough that the blog readership has changed enough that it will be new to some eyes. This is related to the fact that I am convinced blog readership is more like news readership…ephemeral and current. The majority of the viewer traffic lands on the blog through current links rather than through google searches that land on older content.

My view of the reading of scientific content is different. Sure, new and topical stuff will get the most eyes but this is not, precisely, where the primary value of academic papers lies. Particularly when it comes to review articles? I think so.

I’ve run across a most curious situation. I noticed this in one of my various feeds.

Cosyns B, Droogmans S, Rosenhek R, Lancellotti P. Republished: Drug-induced valvular heart disease. Postgrad Med J. 2013 Mar;89(1049):173-8. doi: 10.1136/postgradmedj-2012-302239rep.

Since “Republished” caught my eye, I clicked on the first author and found:

Cosyns B, Droogmans S, Rosenhek R, Lancellotti P. Drug-induced valvular heart disease. Heart. 2013 Jan;99(1):7-12. doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2012-302239. Epub 2012 Aug 8.

Tracking over to the journal page for the Republished one I found it has the following “Footnote”.

This is a reprint of a paper that first appeared in Heart, 2013, Volume 99, pages 7–12.

That note appears prominently on the PDF of the article (in the sidebar block for author details and the submission/acceptance dates) and there is a header on every page of the article that reads “Republishedreview”(sic).

I then did a PubMed search for “Republished” and found that the Postgrad Med J really is quite fond of this strategy. There are some other players in this game too, though. The Br J Sports Med seems to like the “Republished research” tag, for example.

I’ve seen the occasional retracted-and-republished strategy for dealing with errata. But this was a new one for me, to my recollection. I scanned through the Postgrad Med J Instructions to Authors and it wasn’t really clear if these are unsolicited submissions or requested by the Editorial staff. I’d tend to suspect the latter but both versions of the review say “Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.” at the bottom. Interestingly the Republished one has color figures where the original has B/W images….it does look nicer. And I can make out no indication in the Republished one that it has the permission of the original journal Heart to republish the work. They are both in the BMJ Group, however, so maybe this issue* is irrelevant?

I find myself curious about the advantages and disadvantages for both authors and the journals/publishers for doing this sort of thing. To be honest, what I’d like to see is the the bloggy “Update:” tag added to the title of those reviews from authors that seem to publish essentially the same review over and over. Particularly when it is just an updating of progress since they last wrote a review. That would be a great service to the reader.

*I.e., if the Publisher, not the journal, holds copyright and the Publisher is the same for both journals…the “permission” is implied or implicit? But then we have the issue of “self-plagiarism” that seems to bother the humanities majors’ sentiments which are insinuating themselves into the business of science lately.

3 Responses to “On Reposting and Republishing”

  1. qaz Says:

    On the one hand, this is a great idea. I have a number of papers that cross disciplines. For example, imagine that I show that I have a new result that applies to both bunny hopping and tiger running. It would be great to have it reach both the bunny hopping and tiger running researchers. This means that I have a very difficult dilemma deciding which journal to send it to (assuming we’ve already lost the chance to go to GlamourMag – but even there, not everyone reads all GlamourMagz). From a “trying to reach an audience” perspective, it would be great to have the paper appear in both Bunny Hopping Quarterly and Tiger Running Weekly. The problem, of course, is how to do this without completely screwing up our productivity metrics – it’s not fair to count this paper twice.

    On the other hand, my first reaction to seeing this is “that’s not good – they’re going to count it twice”. I wonder how this (one) paper is listed on the authors’ CVs.

    Of course, if we published papers in the base + comment way (publish one easy-to-get-into base journal, let fancy journals select papers from the base to list and comment on), we wouldn’t have this problem, because multiple fancy journals could select from the list.


  2. dsks Says:

    “The problem, of course, is how to do this without completely screwing up our productivity metrics – it’s not fair to count this paper twice.”

    If the hiring/promotion committees focus more on citations than article counting, it wouldn’t necessarily mess up one’s statistics; presumably, somebody citing a particular paper by your lab is just going to list one of the venues in which it was published rather than have four entries in their bibliography for the same paper.

    OTOH, journals wouldn’t like this system though because it would fuck up their citation metrics by forcing them to share citations. And I doubt journals within the same publisher’s umbrella would be any more in favour of it if they only had to share with lower rank sibling journals; e.g. Nature is not going to want one of its pharmacology papers republished in Brit. J. Pharmacol., because a large number of pharmacologists will cite the latter in favour of the former just out of loyalty/habit/bloodymindedness. Multiply that effect and it probably would impact a journals impact factor.


  3. qaz Says:

    Multiply that effect and it probably would impact a journals impact factor.

    Good! Down with impact factor!


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