How much of an academic paper can you post online? Most of it!!

Edit: As was pointed out in the comments, you can find self-archiving info for most journals at [h/t Laurent]

I have been a bit frustrated about scientific publishing, as you might have been able to tell if you read some of my earlier posts on open access in academia.  I posted earlier this week about Aaron Swartz and the legal predicament in which he found himself when he downloaded huge numbers of scientific papers.  I was frustrated at the lack of access that most people experience to academic publishing, but didn’t want to resort to breaking the law to remedy the situation.  However, a certain amount of that frustration could have been relieved had I just taken the time to figure out where the boundaries lie in the copyright documents that I sign when I publish papers.  I decided to have a look to see how many of my rights remain, and I was quite interested to find out that I can post a reasonable amount of information on the web without breaking any laws.  As ever, this isn’t legal advice.  However, there do seem to be a few generalities that others can use to guide the release of their publications depending upon the publisher that owns the journals within which their papers are published:



Springer is a major publisher of hundreds of scientific journals, but has only one document that guides the author of journal articles in what can be done with those articles after they have been published.  You can download that document here, but the key section reads like this:

An author may self-archive an author-created version of his/her article on his/her own website and/or the repository of Author’s department or faculty. Author may also deposit this version on his/her funder’s or funder’s designated repository at the funder’s request or as a result of a legal obligation, provided it is not made publicly available until 12 months after official publication by Springer. He/she may not use the publisher’s PDF version, which is posted on, for the purpose of self-archiving or deposit. Furthermore, Author may only post his/her own version, provided acknowledgement is given to the original source of publication and a link is inserted to the published article on Springer’s website. The link must be accompanied by the following text: “The final publication is available at”.


Taylor Francis

Taylor Francis also publish a large number of journals, and also have only one document that guides authors post-publication (you can download it here).  Here is the important part:

In assigning Taylor & Francis or the journal proprietor copyright, or granting an exclusive license to publish, you retain… the right to post on a non-commercial basis your “Author’s Accepted Manuscript” (i.e., your manuscript in the form accepted for publication, revised after peer review; formerly a “postprint”),  as a digital file on your own website for personal or professional use, or on your institution’s network or intranet or website, or in a subject repository that does not offer content for commercial sale or for any systematic external distribution by a third party, provided that you do not use the PDF version of the article prepared by us and that you include any amendments or deletions or warnings relating to the article issued or published by us; in compliance with the embargo periods detailed below; and only with this acknowledgement:

“This is an Author’s Accepted Manuscript of an article published in [include the complete citation information for the final version of the article as published in the [JOURNAL TITLE] [date of publication] [copyright Taylor & Francis], available online at:[Article DOI].”

Summary: you can post the full version online, so long as (i) it is acknowledged as above, and (ii) it is not the typeset version produced by the journal.



Wiley-Blackwell is one of the larger publishers that I deal with.  They have a separate copyright transfer agreements for each of the organisations on whose behalves they publish, which make things a little bit more complicated.  Methods in Ecology and Evolution and Journal of Animal Ecology (both published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the British Ecological Society) state the following (it is worth noting that BES publications become public domain two years after publication, anyway):

immediately after publication you may replace the unreviewed version on your own personal website, on your employer’s website/repository and on free public servers in your subject area, with the abstract only of the published article.  Please note that you are not permitted to post the Blackwell Publishing PDF version of the Article online.

Journal of Evolutionary Biology (published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology), specifies:

2 months after publication you may post an electronic version of the Article on your own personal website, on your employer’s website/repository and on free public servers in your subject area. Electronic versions of the accepted Article must include a link to the published version of the Article together with the following text: ‘The definitive version is available at’.  Please note that you are not permitted to post the Blackwell Publishing PDF version of the Article online.

Insect Conservation and Diversity and Ecological Entomology (administered by the Royal Entomological Society), and Global Change Biology and Ecology Letters (published by Wiley-Blackwell themselves) state the following:

The Society licenses back the following rights to the Contributor in the version of the Contribution as originally submitted for publication: After publication of the final article, the right to self-archive on the Contributor’s personal website or in the Contributor’s institution’s/employer’s institutional repository or archive. This right extends to both intranets and the Internet. The Contributor may not update the submission version or replace it with the published Contribution. The version posted must contain a legend as follows: This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: FULL CITE, which has been published in final form at [Link to final article].



The posterboy of profiteering in academic publishing, Elsevier makes 30% profits on the content that is provided to them for free by charging vast rates for subscribers.  Indeed, there is a not-insubstantial petition flying around calling for a boycott.  To my chagrin, I published a paper in one of their journals before I really understood the depth of the problem to which they were contributing.  However, they do permit the open posting of material in a small number of cases (the guidance can be found here):

Preprint version (with a few exceptions) Accepted Author Manuscript Published Journal Articles
Voluntary posting on open web sites operated by author or author’s institution for scholarly purposes Yes (author may later add an appropriate bibliographic citation, indicating subsequent publication by Elsevier and journal title) Yes, with appropriate bibliographic citation and a link to the article once published Only with the specific written permission of Elsevier


Macmillan Publishers Ltd (Nature Publishing Group)

Macmillan Publishers are the group behind the Nature journals – among the most prestigious scientific publications in the world.  Their policy is as follows:

To post a copy of the Contribution as accepted for publication after peer review (in Word or Tex format) on the Authors’ own web site or institutional repository, or the Authors’ funding body’s designated archive, six months after publication of the printed or online edition of the Journal, provided that they also give a hyperlink from the Contribution to the Journals web site.



It seems that most journals will allow pretty much everything to be posted online for free apart from the copy-editing and typesetting that they contribute themselves.  Sometimes only the initial submission can be posted, sometimes the final submission, and sometimes the full text.  A bit of awareness on the part of authors will mean that vast amounts of scientific information can be pushed into the public domain without any breach of copyright.  I plan on making it my mission this week to post as much of my papers as possible to my website, and I’m going to start to encourage others to do the same.


12 thoughts on “How much of an academic paper can you post online? Most of it!!

    • I think in most cases that requires special permission from the journal/publisher, and I haven’t tried asking. There is the other issue of moving paywalls (typically 6-24 months) which make articles accessible after a set period – perhaps in those cases the publishers might be more likely to allow it. I’m planning a larger survey, so I’ll see what comes up…

  1. It’s a great resource but can be deceptive unless you’re prepared to dig a bit deeper for information. For example, Sherpa Romeo lists Elsevier as being a Green publisher – that is, one who permits the OA sharing of the final published version of the article … clearly, this isn’t the case …

  2. Great summary, thanks. In the Taylor & Francis case, however, I think you should pay attention to the part where it says “in compliance with the embargo periods detailed below;”. This embargo is 18 months for articles in social science. This restrains me from publishing my papers on my website.
    Most journals seem to allow for a publishing of the original manuscript prior to peer review. I don’t know how you prepare papers, but mine have been considerably improved by the reviewer’s comments most of the time. And I am not sure if it makes sense to publish an older version if I think the actual journal version is better…
    And a short reply to Zachary’s comment: I’ve talked to a very experienced sciences studies scholar who is researching academic publishing a couple of months ago, and he said he doesn’t know any case a journal sued a researcher for publishing his own content.

    • Axel, you’re absolutely right about embargoes. I have just been looking through the Sherpa database, and it seems that a lot of journals place that kind of restriction. Embargoes earn the journal a “yellow” rating rather than a “green” rating.

      I agree as well about posting the pre-print rather than the post-print. I would feel like I was airing my dirty laundry if someone saw the unreviewed papers! It is definitely worth making people aware of these kinds of policies, though.

      Finally, I haven’t heard of anyone being even mildly scolded for posting the full version. And I know many people who do!

  3. I’ve posted my papers here and there, on and elsewhere, and I have always used the published pdf, and I’ve never had any problems. When you consider we are giving them their content for free, they know they haven’t a leg to stand on! Also, I don’t think they would like the publicity that would result from bringing legal action against an academic, as that would bring their smug little racket out into the open and result in even more of a backlash.

  4. If charges were reasonable – say a couple of pounds or five dollars, I would BUY the papers. But they are usually about 30 dollars which is too much for me. Of course several are on Google Scholar and I usually do an ordinary google in case I can find it there on a different website – sometimes I can.

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