by Carol Anne Meyer (CrossRef)
Scholarly content exists in a multi-channel environment. Journal articles are available from authors’ Websites, from institutional repositories, from subject archive repositories, as pre-publication manuscripts from publishers Websites, as peer-reviewed, accepted, and copyedited manuscripts on publishers’ Websites, and as licensed, redistributed content from aggregator journal vendors. Articles also increasingly live as PDFs on researchers’ hard drives or in manuscript management systems.
Just as the text of the document has many homes, so too do bibliographic metadata about that document. There may be a separate secondary record for different versions of the text.
So what happens to content in all of these channels when something important changes? Maybe an author’s name was misspelled. Maybe a table was missing a caption. Perhaps a figure was mislabeled. Or an editing error changes the interpretation of the results. The author could have discovered a calculation error. An individual may disavow knowledge of the research and ask to be removed as an author. Or evidence that part of the content was plagiarized could surface. Occasionally, cases of academic fraud require that a paper be retracted.
How, as scholarly publishers and academic librarians can we ensure that all of the consumers of scholarly information have simple, prompt access to important information about status and changes?
NISO’s recommended Journal Article Versions (JAV)1 represents one attempt to classify and label the stages of journal articles to provide important information to readers about exactly what it is they are looking at.
Independently, CrossRef, a not-for-profit organization for scholarly publishers that made scholarly reference linking a reality, has been working on a new initiative of publishers to clearly label their content. CrossMark, which will launch in mid-2011, will provide a way to clearly mark versions of record and communicate information about their current status.
How will it work?
An article that is part of the CrossMark service will sport a distinctive logo — which will be the same across all participating publishers. The presence of the logo tells a reader two things: 1) publisher of this document has made a commitment to label it, maintain it, and communicate any changes that it may undergo; and 2) further information is available about the status of the document. In most cases, the presence of the CrossMark logo actually indicates that the document is a version of record, though there may be exceptions due to individual publisher practices, as we will see below.
When a reader sees the CrossMark logo, whether on an HTML page or a PDF copy of a document, he or she may click on it. After doing so, a box pops up containing important information: 1) the current status of the document, 2) if this particular copy is being maintained by the publisher, 3) where to find the copy of the document that is being maintained by the publisher (the CrossRef DOI link), 4) the version of the document, and 5) additional important publication record information.
In this article, we are mostly concerned with the version of the document, but I will spend a little bit of time discussing the other parts of CrossMark to make it clear what the service provides.
Status — Most of the time, when a reader clicks on a CrossMark logo, the status will be “This document is current.” Occasionally and when appropriate, the status will be “An update is available for this document.” If that is the case, the CrossMark status box will display the CrossRef DOI link to the updated document. This feature is especially powerful for PDFs that may have been sitting around on a researcher’s hard drive for a considerable time.
Version — The CrossMark status box will also display the version of a document. Here’s where JAV comes into play. The version field that CrossRef publishers will indicate as part of CrossRef will have some flexibility, and will not require that they use JAV terminology. However, CrossRef will encourage publishers to look at the NISO JAV recommendations in creating their version labels. For many, the JAV recommendations will work fine. In the majority of cases, publishers will use the term “Version of Record” for peer-reviewed, published articles.
For other publishers, the JAV statuses may not fit as well, so they may need to use their own terminology. For example, though a few publishers may make corrections to articles in situ by replacing the previous version, it is not a common practice, so the JAV term “Corrected Version of Record” will probably not be necessary for most publishers. We expect a more common scenario to be an additional entity with its own metadata that is the correction to the original “Version of Record.” In order for the scholarly record to remain clear, it may be important for the publisher to retain the (now) incorrect version, while clearly labeling it as such.
As an organization based on the network advantages of the DOI standard, and as a long-time supporter of NISO, it almost goes without saying that CrossRef would recommend that its members adopt the JAV terminology. Yet, we are also practical, and we understand that not every publisher’s workflow fits nicely into the JAV definitions.
A more fundamentally important reason why CrossRef is not “hardwiring” JAV terminology into CrossMark is that CrossMark may be used for content other than journals. Of the more than 45 million DOIs assigned at CrossRef, over 13 percent of them now come from books and book chapters (including reference entries), conference proceedings, components, database records, and other non-journal content.
Another important relationship between CrossMark and JAV is that, as part of the rules of participation, CrossMark logos may not be displayed on pre-acceptance versions. In fact, if a document is not eligible to get a CrossRef DOI, the purpose of which is to ensure persistent linking, then it may not have a CrossMark either. Publishers who make Accepted Manuscripts or Proofs (both JAV terms) available publicly may wish to display CrossMark logos on those, and use those terms in the CrossMark Version Field.
Publication Record — CrossMark can also communicate valuable publication record information about the document to which it applies. Though not directly related to the issue of versions, record information can provide valuable insight to researchers as they assess the credibility of the content they rely upon. Record information may include data like publication dates, funding sources, location of data deposits, licensing information, CrossCheck plagiarism screening status, and content type definitions. CrossRef will not specify which record information fields can be present, though we do anticipate and encourage communities of practice to develop among publishers in specific disciplines.
Giving readers choices about where to get their information and what versions to use is “a good thing.” A better thing is providing them with enough information to evaluate the source and quality of that content. Labeling versions of record through CrossMark, especially with standardized, meaningful terminology such as provided by JAV, is an approach to making it easy for researchers to find and use that important information.
For a more complete discussion of the problems with multiple online journal versions, please see the article in Learned Publishing.2
1. Journal Article Versions (JAV): Recommendations of the NISO/ALPSP JAV Technical Working Group, NISO-RP-8-2008, April 2008 http://www.niso.org/publications/rp/RP-8-2008.pdf, accessed 3/15/2011.
2. Meyer, C. “Distinguishing published scholarly content with CrossMark,” Learned Publishing, 24:87–93, 2011.