Jen Lynch, SETAC Publications Manager; Steven Ottogalli and Anna Hofvander, Wiley

Once upon a time, long, long ago, scientific publishing was an elitist pursuit. Those publishing were less concerned about broad dissemination of their work and more concerned with obtaining the approval of a small number of renowned researchers. Over the years, education became more accessible, and with that change, priorities started to shift. The crowning metric in this modern world is the impact factor, which is driven by citations. Generally, authors of journal articles want lots of other people in their field to read and cite their work. High citations can result in tenure, career advancement and financial reward. It’s little wonder then, that a platform like ResearchGate became so alluring to the research community.

ResearchGate is a collaborative platform on which researchers can share and promote their published works, connect with existing, previous and potential colleagues, and contribute to projects, among other things. All of those things fit with the SETAC mission and are crucial to advancing science. So, what is the problem, exactly? Over the course of the past few years, publishers – and by extension, societies with journals – have largely turned a blind eye to what authors were sharing on ResearchGate. While SETAC encouraged people not to post the article “version of record” – the final, post-production PDF that publishes within an issue – on the ResearchGate website, we did not police it. In the meantime, ResearchGate was actively encouraging researchers to upload their final publication. This is in violation of our re-use and copyright terms. Publishers did issue takedown notices from time to time, but it was only late last year that this practice came to prominence in the news. It became clear that commercial publishers and ResearchGate were not going to reach consensus on how to co-exist, and several publishers issued takedown notices for large amounts of content simultaneously.

In October 2017, there were 1,052 Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (ET&C) articles and 220 Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management (IEAM) articles in violation on the ResearchGate platform. To put that in perspective, that is about three years’ worth of journal content for ET&C, which publishes around 30 articles per issue. It’s roughly two years’ worth of content for IEAM, which published 100 articles in 2017. Our publisher, Wiley, along with others including the American Chemical Society, issued take-down notices.

After this, much of the Wiley content was removed from the ResearchGate site, including articles illegally posted from ET&C and IEAM. While this is a legal victory for copyright law, it is disappointing for authors interested in sharing their work or readers interested in discovering the latest research from their fields. Wiley and SETAC recognize that disseminating quality work is essential to the advancement of science. So how do we encourage the sharing of content while also respecting copyright?

To address these concerns, Wiley introduced a content sharing link. This link allows researchers to share a paper with colleagues, giving full access to a read-only HTML version of the article, but prevents the reader from downloading or printing a PDF copy. This system respects both the community’s desire to further scientific conversations and SETAC’s legal copyright.  share icon

By clicking the share icon found beside the HTML version of each article on Wiley Online Library, authors can send, tweet, post and email articles to their friends and colleagues.

Authors’ contact information: jen.lynch@setac.org

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