The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) has released its recommendations on versioning of journal articles. It is a document worth looking over, for a great deal of careful thought has gone into it.

The document also reflects the schizophrenic relationship that endures between print and online:

These NISO/ALPSP Journal Article Versions (JAV) Technical Working Group recommendations provide a simple, practical way of describing the versions of scholarly journal articles that typically appear online before, during, and after formal journal publication.

Notice that “journal articles” can appear online “before, during, and after formal journal publication.” Now, how can this be so if the articles are indeed journal articles? Only if the final use of the term in the statement is really interpreted as “[print] journal publication,” I think.

This is a bind even the most thoughtful publishers and information experts find themselves in. This is not a criticism of the NISO report. It’s just an unavoidable fact of life and traditions.

The NISO recommendations provide solid guidance, but are limited mostly to the most common forms of journal article publishing. In fact, this probably covers 90%+ of cases. In addition, the working group is to be commended for attempting to address new forms of expression in an appendix, and for addressing use-cases in another appendix. Either one is, to me, worth the price of admission alone.

Finally, the transparency the final appendix provides into the decision-making is fascinating reading in a way. You can almost hear and see the people, many of whom are well-known in our ranks, discussing these things. I know I was finding myself picturing certain people saying certain things. I don’t know if my recreation is accurate, but I’ll bet I got a couple right.

Well done, NISO.

(Thanks for the pointer, TC.)

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.


1 Thought on "Versions — NISO’s New Recommendations"

Thank you Kent for your kind words. I think, though, that you have misinterpreted our statement about articles appearing online before, during, and after formal journal publication. You say this must mean we are thinking in terms of “[print] journal publication”, but we weren’t. We were thinking also of electronic publication, where articles may be posted before their formal online publication, e.g. Blackwell’s Online Accepted. In such cases, we felt it was important to say that, although such versions are posted (and therefore publicly available, which in some peoples’ minds would mean “published”), they do not represent the Version of Record.

Comments are closed.