Troubling (and silly) journal policy

My colleague Aisha Harvey passed on an e-mail pointing out one of the most absurd and troubling requirements I have ever heard of from a publisher. Apparently, at least some journals from Haworth Press, which publishes lots of “niche” journals in library science and other social sciences, claim to require a transfer of copyright to the publisher before they will begin the peer-review process.

Many journals, of course, still require a transfer of copyright before they will publish an article, although more and more are realizing that all they really need is an exclusie right of first publication. But to require the transfer before sending a submission out for peer-review is unheard of and unnecessary. I would not have believe it was true had I not seen the language on a web page of instructions for a Haworth journal myself.

Requiring copyright transfer before review raises the interesting question of what happens when a submission is rejected for publication in the Haworth journal. One has to wonder if this departure from the normal practice of waiting till acceptance to request a transfer indicates that the peer-review process is really a sham and that material is seldom if ever rejected by the journal.

I have published a couple of times in one of Haworth’s library science journals, but I will certainly think twice before doing so again. I hope others in the library community will reconsider both publishing and server as an editor or reviewer for any journal that has this silly policy; as librarians we should both know better and set an example of good practices in scholarly publishing.

One thought on “Troubling (and silly) journal policy”

  1. Haworth sent the following reply to several lists, and it deserves full quotation here:

    With apologies for cross-posting, we would like to respond to
    recent comment on several listservs about Haworth, copyright
    transfer, and manuscript submission to journals.

    It was suggested that Haworth requires copyright transfer before
    beginning the review process to allow us to retain copyright for
    all submissions, published or unpublished. That’s a lot of
    material, and far more copyright than would be productive.

    In fact, language in the “2. Limited Copyright transfer” section
    of the Publication Agreement shows that copyright transfer is
    accomplished “if accepted and published by the journal…”
    Because this important qualification appears to be overlooked in
    a quick reading of the agreement, we’re adding the following
    plain-English statement:

    “Copyright transfer to The Haworth Press, Inc. shall
    automatically revert to the author in the event the paper is not
    published.” The addition will be posted to all online versions
    of both the Instructions for Authors and Publication Agreement by
    the middle of next week.

    Some are presuming, too, that our publication agreement is
    uncommonly restrictive, but please note that our publication
    agreement provides for limited copyright transfer that includes
    significant author freedoms. Authors retain the following:

    1. Proprietary rights, other than copyright, such as patent

    2. Oral presentation right

    3. Preprint distribution rights, including posting as electronic
    files on the contributor’s own website for personal or
    professional use, on the contributor’s university or corporate
    intranet or network, but not for either commercial or systematic
    third party sales or dissemination, e.g., interlibrary loan or
    document delivery, and the author may update the preprint with
    the final version of the article

    4. Photocopying, online transmittal, or downloading rights to any
    colleagues for the advancement of scientific research (with the
    exception of systematic distribution as described above)

    5. Publication rights in any book written or edited by the
    author, in any edited work for which the contributor is the sole
    editor or senior editor, or teaching coursepack prepared or
    written by the author.

    For any of the above, no further permission is required from us.
    We ask only that authors include the copyright line, information
    about Haworth document delivery, and if reprinted electronically,
    a hotlink to Haworth. And if the work is reprinted
    electronically, there must be no charge for viewing the article.

    This is quite different from the older full-transfer of copyright
    more common to older scholarly publishing.

    We’ve been grateful for the opportunity to discuss these matters
    offline with a number of individuals who have posted about these

    Catalysts for learning are always welcome, particularly when it
    enables increased understanding between libraries and publishers.
    We welcome the conversation.

    Kathryn Rutz
    Vice President, Editorial
    The Haworth Press, Inc.
    10 Alice Street
    Binghamton, New York 13904
    tel: 607-722-5857, ext. 409
    fax: 607-723-1502

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