Share your thoughts on preprint metadata

Our Preprint Advisory Group was assembled last year to support Crossref to collect and improve the quality of metadata for preprints. The group has developed recommendations in four key areas of the preprint metadata schema. These are:

  • Preprint withdrawal and removal
  • Preprints as an article type (rather than a subtype)
  • Versioning of preprints
  • Preprint relationship metadata

We invite your feedback on these before we start on implementation later this year. We appreciate all comments on this initial set of recommendations by the end of September 2022.

Please add your comments here and join the discussion (if you’re not sure how, please take a look at our guidelines and ‘how to’ instruction here).

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I’ve seen many different reasons for withdrawal. In one case the authors claimed the results of the paper are valid, whereas the editors have been convinced of the opposite. I’ve seen other cases in which conflict of interest were violated, or there were other code of conduct violations. The action to withdraw a paper may therefore come from an author (and this may be disputed even by multiple authors), or by an institution associated to the publication (e.g., employer or sponsoring agency), an editor, or the board of directors of a sponsoring society. It is actually difficult to imagine all of the possible social failure modes, because humans are creative. :confused: For this reason, when a withdrawal is initiated, it seems useful for the scholarly record that the organization or person who initiates the withdrawal should be identified. This could of course be encoded into the free-text field for reason, or it might be easier to just use a boolean field to distinguish author-initiated vs non-author-initiated withdrawals. My reasoning is that the scholarly record is a social construct, and disagreements are part of the process. We don’t need to insist on surfacing all of the ugly details behind the controversy, but there is a pretty big difference between an author-initiated withdrawal and a non-author initiated withdrawal.

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Dear Crossref,
I totally agree with you in distinguishing the author who initiated withdrawal. but is it possible to make a specific formula to distinguish the researcher who has withdrawn from the rest of the researchers for the same paper?

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Yes, it’s very complex, and preprint servers usually don’t have the resources to investigate to the same extent as a journal publisher would. Some kind of broad taxonomy of reasons for withdrawal is an idea that could work, and the origin of the withdrawal could be a part of it. Publishers usually note whether the authors (and sometimes which authors) agreed with a retraction. Formalizing that could be helpful. Getting it widely adopted would a whole other problem.

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I don’t understand why or why you are sending this message. Please explain. I work at a research institute. I didn’t understand the information you wrote about who to add to the article so that I can publish the article. Sincerely, Khusniddin.

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I think the reason for such messages is my recent article. The person who worked with me and wanted to publish an article in the scopus journal did not give a clear answer to my question about which journal you want to publish the article in. That’s why I refused to publish the article

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@zarnigor2006 This is a general discussion on a public forum. You probably received the message because of your notification settings, there is nothing specific to your research. If you have questions about the forum, see here.

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Most of my experience has been with eprint iacr org and arXiv. I was reluctant to define a whole taxonomy of reasons, because I think a text field is best suited to the nuance of describing it. In most of the cases I have seen, it’s because there was a flaw in mathematical reasoning, and that is best described in text. In other fields it might be experimental failure or realization that a model is not descriptive enough. There are probably reasons of plagiarism or outright exaggeration or slander or every other kind of human misbehavior. I was mostly focused on who made the decision to withdraw. I don’t see a need to identify the individual, since for example it may have been a vote among the editors or the board or an ethics committee (IACR has had both in the 25 years of eprint).

One failure mode I had not anticipated is when an author wishes to withdraw their name from a multi-authored paper, or an affiliation wishes to disclaim the work. I assume this is properly classified as a revision to the paper rather than a withdrawal, but it might not be strong enough given that the previous versions still have the author or affiliation name on them. It’s more like a half-withdrawal. Is that within the scope of the recommendations?

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One author removing permission is a really interesting case, and frustratingly common in preprints in my experience when not all authors are consulted about posting a preprint. Formally, the paper should be withdrawn but there might be legitimate reasons to just remove an author (if they were added by mistake) and every case has its own nuances. With regards to how to capture this in the metadata, a text explanation would be helpful, and obviously an update to the author list.

I seem to recall that when we discussed terms for withdrawal and removal in the AG there was one preprint server which used a different term internally for author-initiated removals. These are much more straightforward to handle and perhaps it is useful to distinguish them. My only counter-argument would be that if there’s a legitimate reason to withdraw, it isn’t affected by who initiated the withdrawal request. On the other hand there’s no harm in having more information about the process. Definitely a useful topic to explore, thanks for bringing it up.

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Suggestion 1: Please consider adding a new relationship relation - that would describe when a preprint (version) is the same as manuscript version that was submitted to a journal/conference proceeding. Preprints can be posted in various times to a server, and sometimes they do not equate the version submitted to a journal - but for those that are - it is important to be able to identify the version that was submitted to a journal - to better understand the role of peer review and changes that occur due to peer review and journal edits. With some journals or preprint servers automatically allowing submission of a preprint to a journal and vice a versa this should not be difficult - and might prove invaluable in the studies of role of peer review and scholarly communication.
Suggestion 1: Please consider introducing metadata fields that capture description of changes that occurred from the previous version - see more on that here www.scholcommlab.ca/2020/04/08/preprint-recommendations/. Some servers or F1000 have different formats how they capture this - but this information could be an important part of the meta-data.

Kind regards,
Mario Malicki

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In my experience, the preprint version can vary from the “official published version” in several ways:

  1. the preprint might be an early version
  2. the preprint might be essentially the same except for the footnote with a link to the official version
  3. the preprint might be identical to the official version
  4. the preprint might be an expanded version. This happens for us sometimes if the official version has a page limit, in which case the preprint version ends up containing full proofs for mathematical results that are omitted in the “official version”.
  5. the preprint might be an updated version posted after the official version, with errata to the official version.

Note that what actually gets posted may not be in compliance with what the publisher of the official version wants. We don’t police that. Maybe I am overlooking other ways in which the preprint could differ from the official version.

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Mario, thank you for the suggestion. We have in our schema a relation of ‘is-identical-to’ that we use in some specific cases. An issue is that identical could mean subtly different things: exactly the same document, the same content reformatted (e.g. PDF vs XML vs Word manuscript), or some minor typographical changes that wouldn’t need a version change.

I think the suggestion of a field to describe changes between versions is an excellent one and something that we’re considering to add as metadata.

Another question is who determines whether something is identical? I don’t think platforms would take the time to see if something (such as a conference paper) is exactly the same or simply similar to a previous work (such as a preprint). If they do, then they could use the is-identical-to relationship. The best pragmatic solution is to have links to the full text so that downstream users and services could make a comparison.

Thank you for considering the suggestions and working on them.

Just to clarify, is identical to - is linkage to another document, what I suggested is that there is a filed which would specify this is THE Version submitted to the journal, not a connection it to any other document/paper/proceeding. For example, if you look at Springer Natures - In Review platform for my journal (link below for an example), the preprint can be the exact manuscript version that was submitted to my journal, i.e. authors opted that that version is also shared as a preprint during journal submission time - and instead of “just” classifying these as preprints, I hope you will have a field that will show this is the “journal submitted version”. So the meta fields could be either:
venue-submitted: Yes.
and then you would have details for the venue:
e.g. journal-title: Name
date-submitted, and so on.
And then as we have published review reports for them, you could link those reviews to the preprint itself. Perhaps that is another option - through which researchers could identify it being the submitted version - if the reviews come from a journal - but a field would be helpful to be able to filter based on that field, rather than on reviews - as some journals might share the information on the submitted version but not shared reviews.

Example:
Manuscript version - preprint- posted on In-review during journal submission process: researchsquare /article/rs-582546/v1
Note: On in review - you can see the whole review process timeline in the right box of the page

Manuscript published (VoR): esearchintegrityjournal.biomedcentral /articles/10.1186/s41073-021-00116-4

@MarioMalicki Thanks for the clarification, this is a bit different from what I thought before. It seems like a good topic to discuss with our preprint advisory group. I have questions about how it would be implemented, and who would be responsible for updating the metadata when the state changes in the editorial process. On the other hand, I think there would be an interest in having this data publicly available via metadata.

I am a bit late to this thread, and this may have been mentioned before, but NISO has recently been updating their own standards for pre-prints and document versions that might be beneficial to this discussion.

Working group info is available at https://www.niso.org/standards-committees/journal-article-versions

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The link to Sally Morris’ paper is broken on that niso page. One of the principles of a preprint server is to have permanent URIs.

@Eric Thanks for noting this, I’m not aware of any recent (or forthcoming) output from this group, but it would be interesting to know. The context around preprints has changed significantly since the group was formed.

@mccurley The paper cited on the NISO page seems to be https://0-doi-org.library.scad.edu/10.1087/095315103322110941 (PDF available from Wiley), but it’s hard to tell without a more specific reference.

The NISO JAV working group is actively working on revising and updating JAV. Some information about this working group is at JAV Revision Working Group | NISO website. There two representatives from Crossref involved (I’m also a member of this working group). Preprints are among the versioning scenarios that have been brought up for discussion in the JAV working group.

This recommendation for preprint metadata also addresses withdrawals and removals for preprints. This may relate to NISO CORREC (CORREC (Communication of Retractions, Removals, and Expressions of Concern) Working Group | NISO website), which is a new recommended practice that is being developed by an active working group.

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Good to hear that there is ongoing work on JAV. There are several people on both that committee and our preprints advisory group (including my colleague Patricia) so it’s more than like that there’s been a crossover of ideas. CORREC is also one we’ll be keeping a close eye on.