Researchers Prefer the Version of Record: White Paper

Data from Springer Nature shows majority of researchers want access to the ‘more credible’ final published version of articles, increasing support for immediate gold OA

Preprints, accepted manuscripts, and the final published version of record (VOR) mean researchers now have access to increasing multiple versions of research papers.  In its latest white paper released on February 18, “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.   

Through an analysis of its own usage data and in conjunction with a survey of nearly 1,400 researchers using the ResearchGate platform, the Springer Nature white paper reveals that those surveyed overwhelmingly (83%) preferred the Version of Record to earlier version found in an Accepted Manuscript (AM) and/or the preprint for both general reading and for citing in their research. They find the VOR easier to read, more reliable, and more credible because of the reassurance provided by peer review and final publication. In particular, publication in a recognized journal provides an authoritative ‘stamp of credibility’ unavailable in earlier versions.   

The Executive Summary of the white paper indicates that the objective of the study was to determine:

  • The extent to which usage for the VOR differs from author uploaded content, such as a preprint or an AM
  • The extent to which users prefer one version of an article to another depending on whether it is being used for reading or research
  • Author attitudes towards the sharing and reading of their own work in different formats.

Key Findings

  • Researchers prefer to read and cite the article VOR. 83% of respondents preferred working with the VOR for citing content in their own work, compared with 9% preferring AMs, and 2% 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. 
  • 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. 

Original Source Material

The full text of Springer-Nature's press release may be found here, while the full text of the white paper may be downloaded from the Figshare platform here.