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Roger Clarke's 'Managing PrePrints'

An Open and Closed Case:
PrePrints and PostPrints in Digital Repositories

Roger Clarke **

Revision of 5 February 2006

Abstract and Slides for an invited presentation at a Symposium on Managing Openness in Digital Repositories, Sydney, 3 February 2006

© Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 2006

Available under an AEShareNet Free
for Education licence or a Creative Commons 'Some
Rights Reserved' licence.

This document is at

The presentation slides are at


This presentation considers the conjunction of three things:

Academics have various motivations for publication (Slide 7), and these need to be understood before any rational analysis can be undertaken. Most importantly, most academics have no interest at all in publishing for 'the public'. Their focus is on a very small community of people who matter to them.

There are many perceptions of what a 'journal' is. The two least important ideas are that it is a periodic publication and that it is a vehicle for making money. The most important conception is that it is a process and infrastructure used within a community to perform quality assurance on articles (Slides 8-10).

PrePrints are draft articles, exposed electronically, prior to journal submission. The author's intentions are to get feedback, to get noticed, to establish evidence of priority, to build and sustain a professional network, to make information available to specialists, and (maybe) to make information available to anyone (Slide 11).

PostPrints are the final versions of articles that have been accepted for publication in a refereed journal, reproduced in an electronically accessible form in a repository of the author's choice (Slide 12).

Repositories can be differentiated according to the organisation that runs them. The tension is apparent to all between, on the one hand, for-profit operations (by corporations and some professional associations), and, on the other, not-for-profit repositories. A tension that will come to much greater prominence shortly is that between instuitutional (i.e. university) repositories and disciplinary repositories (Slide 13).

The current, somewhat complex model of the roles of Journals, PrePrints and PostPrints (slides 15-16) is capable of being rationalised by placing PrePrints, intermediate and final versions in a single repository, adding a digitally signed 'seal of approval' to the 'journal article', and redefining a journal to be a web-page containing links to the approved articles, wherever they may be stored.

Journal-publishers have a variety of characteristics (Slide 17). An analysis of the cost-profiles of alternative approaches to journal-publishing suggests that for-profit journal publishers have significantly higher cost-profiles than non-profit community publishers (Slides 18-19). The additional costs arise because of features that are of no benefit to either authors or consumers, but only to shareholders (Slides 20-21). Although there are some roles of consequence performed by publishers (Slides 22-24), the for-profit model is not in the interests of the academic endeavour.

The term 'open access' has multiple interpretations (Slides 25-26). It is naive to the extent that it seeks to avoid legal constraints on access. Copyright law exists, has the ability to intrude on academic work, and hence can't be ignored. (It has recently been subject to extraordinary extensions, as large, old, powerful corporations struggle to come to terms with the digital era. Current copyright law needs to be completely remodelled, and many recent extensions wound back. But some form of copyright law is needed in order to provide a framework for intellectual interactions in the next century).

The concept of 'open content' (Slide 27) refers to a variant of 'open access'. It involves the assertion of copyright, but the provision of liberal licences, at least for non-commercial uses. There is a wide spectrum of copyright licensing options. Many possible licences can be devised. Two organisations have prepared a small set, or requisite variety, of licence-types, AEShareNet for educational users, and Creative Commons for creative works.

The 'open content' approach reflects the need for authors to apply appropriate copyright licences to PrePrints and PostPrints (Slides 28-30).


Clarke R. (2003) 'Copyright: The Spectrum of Content Licensing' Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra, July 2003, at

Clarke R. (2005a) 'The Cost-Profiles of Alternative Approaches to Journal-Publishing' Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra, April 2005, Invited presentation in a session on 'The Impact of Open Access on Publishers, Librarians and Academics', at the Fiesole Collection Retreat Series, no. 7, Melbourne, 29 April 2005, at

Clarke R. (2005b) 'A Proposal for an Open Content Licence for Research Paper (Pr)ePrints' First Monday 10, 8 (1 August 2005), available as the Open Journal Version, the PrePrint and the PostPrint

Clarke R. (2005c) 'A Standard Copyright Licence for PostPrints' Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra, September 2005, at

Author Affiliations

Roger Clarke is Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra. He is also a Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre at the University of N.S.W., a Visiting Professor in the E-Commerce Programme at the University of Hong Kong, and a Visiting Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the Australian National University.

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Created: 20 January 2006 - Last Amended: 5 February 2006 by Roger Clarke - Site Last Verified: 15 February 2009
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