Here are several of the leading, pioneering journals and services who permit (and encourage) self-archiving and/or post-publication peer review. Depending on your field or subfield, some will be more appropriate for you than others. Our goal here is not to provide an exhaustive list of such entities, but rather to give you an idea of the variation and innovations going on in the academic publishing industry.
Supporting Self-Publication – Author Self-archiving and Digital Repositories
arXiv.org is a database of over a million papers in physics, mathematics, computer science, astronomy, quantitative biology, statistics, and quantitative finance. Hosted by Cornell University in the USA, it was one of the pioneers in the open-access movement, beginning operation as early as 1991.
Researchers submit papers for storage and dissemination on arXiv. Papers are not peer-reviewed: rather, a group of moderators (specific to subject area) checks that the paper is filed in the appropriate field and rejects submissions that are not scientific papers. Moderators, except in physics, are publicly listed – they are volunteers. However, there is no commenting or peer review system.
Why would you want to publish on arXiv before publishing?
- Speed. You can share your paper with the public early on, while you wait for months for the paper to pass peer review. If your findings are especially novel or groundbreaking, others can build on your results faster. This also relates to:
- Primacy. The world knows you are the first to publish certain findings, or to discuss a certain topic. This is true especially if many laboratories are working on a similar topic. If peer review delays mean another research group gets published first, or if an immoral reviewer tries to ‘scoop’ your findings, there’s a public record of your primacy.
- Open access. Anyone who wants to can read your paper, without restrictions.
There are, however, some disadvantages.
- Publishing violations. Some journals have conditions, that any paper must not be published in another location. This is because of publication rights. However, most major journals (including Nature and Science) accept ArXiv as a ‘pre-publication’ forum, and will not deny publication on this basis. A helpful policy if you’re concerned is to notify the journal that you have uploaded a preliminary draft of your paper to ArXiv, so they know you aren’t trying to deceive them.
- Losing credit. Even if your manuscript is published first, the gold standard of a peer-reviewed published paper is what counts in the academic world. If someone ‘scoops’ your findings via ArXiv, and publishes first, they will be the ones who everyone knows about.
Social Science Research Network (SSRN)
Social Science Research Network (SSRN) is a global collaborative of hundreds of thousands of authors and users. It consists of dozens of specialized research networks in the social sciences, ranging from Business to Cognitive Science to Political Science. As of April 2017, SSRN contained information on over 600,000 scholarly papers, currently published and forthcoming, of which over 500,000 can be accessed for free.
Completely free of charge, SSRN allows authors to upload papers and users anywhere in the world to download them. While most downloads are free, some papers in the database are uploaded by publishers, institutions, and other copyright holders, but SSRN requires that the fee be equal to or less than the lowest access fee anywhere else on the Web.
SSRN encourages the early distribution of research results, and as such is a great place to ‘test the waters’ for your research. You can get feedback directly on your research from other users
and authors, and use it improve your methodology, present your results in a more understandable way, or better frame the impact of your research.
If you are hesitant, consider subscribing to an eJournal in one of the over 1,000 fields available. Subscribers receive emails containing abstracts for up to 12 papers written in the past year and available on SSRN.
Your Personal Website
One option many researchers consider is to host your manuscripts on your own website. This is obviously permitted if your work has not been published else, but less obviously, you may have permission to host even published papers, depending on the conditions of the journal it was published in. For example, gold-level open access allows you to freely distribute your work at any time after publication.
Search engines like Google Scholar index the whole Web: this includes your personal website, whether or not it is hosted at an official academic address (i.e., ending in .edu). When you consider the number of users of Google worldwide, this option perhaps gives you the greatest potential readership of all!