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Re: Versions

On 19-Jun-04, at 6:09 AM, Anthony Watkinson wrote:

It may seem that I am trying to score points off OA protagonists but I do think there is a question here which is not actually an OA/anti OA
question. If anyone is interested in problems of authenticity see

I would agree with Anthony that the issue of different versions, while
relevant to OA, is not particularly an OA question.

There have been different versions of works since ancient history, which
has led to some interesting discussions and controversies.  There are
differences in translation of the Bible and other religious works, for
example.  Revised editions of published works, and slightly different
editions of the same work, have been around for some time.

What is different now is not really OA, but rather the flexibility of the
electronic medium.  The different versions problem is one that applies to
individual and organizations in our daily work.  When we're working on a
business document, for example, it may go through many different
iterations, and it can be a challenge to ensure that we correctly identify
the final one, particularly if this is one that is approved by our
organization or committee.

This might be an issue for the self-archiving author; when choosing a
preprint for posting, some authors will have multiple drafts to select
from, and it would be a bit surprising if the wrong draft was never, ever

There are occasions where multiple versions are clearly beneficial, and
the electronic medium facilitiates this.  A pdf version for those who like
pretty printed pages, a text version for those who are visually impaired
or have difficulty downloading large files, an html version to allow for
easy following of links - or, like PLOS, the scientific version and the
layman version, nicely tied together.

Another potential future possibility - I haven't seen this happen yet,
although perhaps others might have - is that authors could update their
works after publishing.  In some cases, there may have been advances since
the time the article was submitted for publication.  While authors might
not wish to continually update their articles, in the situation where they
need to do their own editing before posting to an institutional archive,
perhaps it might be tempting to update at the same time?  If the author is
knowledgable and their work does not need much editing, such a version
might well be superior to the peer-reviewed published version.

Multiple versions is only a serious issue where peer review has indicated
either substantive changes (as in, an error in mathematics has been
detected leading to some change in reporting of results), or where
linguistic editing is essential to avoid misinterpretation (as in, the
author meant to say NEVER amputate but unfortunately left off the word
NEVER by mistake).

If the peer review and editing process is considered to be important, then
it is important for authors and publishers to ensure that the final,
edited work is the one that is published (with perhaps a link to more up
to date information, if warranted).  The safest way to ensure this is if
publishers provide the final, printable copy to the author for
self-archiving in institutional or disciplinary repositories.  Otherwise,
even the author who is willing to self-edit and has the best of
intentions, could easily make a mistake in copying the edits.


Heather G. Morrison