'More support for immediate gold OA’

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Preprints, accepted manuscripts, and the final published version of record (VOR) mean researchers now have access to increasing multiple versions of research papers.  In a white paper, ‘Exploring researcher preference for the Version of Record’, produced in collaboration with data from ResearchGate, Springer Nature seeks to provide increased understanding into how researchers view these different versions, which they prefer to use and why.   

The study finds that 83 per cent of researchers prefer the article VOR over the Accepted Manuscript (AM) and preprint both for general reading and for citing in their research. They find the VOR easier to read, more reliable, and more authoritative and credible because of the reassurance provided by peer review and proof of publication.  In particular, publication in a recognised journal provides a ‘stamp of credibility’ unavailable in earlier versions.  

Where access to the article VOR is not available, nearly 9 in 10 researchers will take direct action to gain access to the VOR. In addition, the VOR is the version of their own work authors prefer others to use.

Springer Nature says these findings support the need to widen the availability of article VORs via the gold OA route as this provides immediate, unrestricted access to the authoritative VOR, and for continued and sustainable funding of gold OA as a critical step towards a fully open research future.  

Steven Inchcoombe, chief publishing and solutions officer at Springer Nature, said: ‘By showing overwhelmingly that the article VOR is the version of the manuscript researchers are most comfortable using as both reader and author, making this version immediately available via gold OA is where we should all be focusing all our efforts.

‘Attempts to enable the further growth of green OA and to make AMs more widely available may only add confusion to the scientific record and do not reflect researcher preference. It is why we are committed to transitioning all primary research we publish to gold OA so that this authoritative version is immediately available to all.

‘Providing only immediate access to the unfinished accepted manuscript via ‘green’ OA, which does not have the benefits of post-acceptance improvements to the article, is not linked up with data or code, does not show corrections, or retractions, and ultimately relies on the continuation of library subscriptions mean we risk falling short in delivering on the promise of an open science future that is so crucial to the future of the whole research enterprise.’

Summary of key findings:

  • Researchers prefer to read and cite the article VOR. 83 per cent of respondents preferred working with the VOR for citing content in their own work, compared with 9 per cent preferring AMs, and 2 per cent preferring preprints;
  • Researchers believe the article VOR is easier to read and is more reliable. In open text answers, respondents commented on the reassurance that peer review and proof of publication give to the VOR, pointing to the lack of time researchers have to read a large volume of content, and the desire to quickly assess and cite an article;
  • Researchers are more likely to look for ways to find the article VOR, rather than an AM or preprint. Where authors did not have access to the VOR (i.e. they did not have access via a subscription or as a result of it being published OA), the majority – nearly 9 in 10 researchers – will take direct action to gain access to the VOR (e.g. contact the author);
  • Alternative versions of the article can offer value, but with caveats on use. Even though the VOR is preferred, many researchers also feel comfortable using a preprint or an AM for reading and, in some instances, for citing. Speed of availability, in particular, is noted as a benefit from preprints; and
  • The article VOR is considered the most authoritative and credible source by the majority of researchers. Researcher preference for the VOR highlights the value added by publishers, in particular with reference to the ‘stamp of credibility’ that publication in a recognised journal brings.


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