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Caught My Eye by Katina: “The State of the Version of Record”

by | Feb 14, 2022 | 0 comments

The State of the Version of Record” is by Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe and appears in Scholarly Kitchen. It was published on Feb. 14, 2022.

“The “version of record” is an organizing concept in scholarly publishing. It is by reference to that version that others are understood and it is the object of financial models, policies, and recognition and reward systems. At the same time, many of the core functions of academic publishing – in particular, registration and dissemination – are decoupling from the version of record. Scholarly publishers are also expanding their remit to encompass other article versions, as well as other research outputs, and efforts to systematically link together and track these into a “record of versions” are growing. Today, I provide a landscape scan of the state of the “version of record.”

Scenographia Systematis Copernicani


Version of Record Defined

“The version of record is defined both formally by industry organizations as well as colloquially. In everyday conversation with scholars, librarians, and publishers, we often hear the version of record identified as “the publisher PDF” or even just “the PDF.” While a researcher may be willing to accept a different version, such as a preprint, when they ask for the PDF, no librarian asks which version they mean. We immediately look to locate the publisher PDF. We can see this conceptualization operating nascently as well when someone tweets about an article and then tags it “[paywalled]” even though there are other versions of the article that are open. 

Crossref’s document on Version Control, Corrections, and Retractions defines the version of record as the “typeset, copyedited, and published version” and observes that version control is important for traceability, identifiability, clarity, reduced duplication, and reduced errors. While there are many potential versions prior to version of record, there is only one version that follows sequentially. 

NISO’s definition of the version of record further underscores the role of the publisher in the creation of the version of record. The NISO Recommended Practice on Journal Article Versions states that the version of record is “a fixed version of a journal article that has been made available by any organization that acts as a publisher by formally and exclusively declaring the article ‘published.’” Most notably, then, publishers have the agency in identifying the version of record. We know which is the version of record through a kind of “speech act” by the publisher – by declaring it the version of record it becomes the version of record. 

We should also take a moment to address some potential confusions about the version of record. In the early days of electronic journals, when there were discrepancies between the printed version and the electronic version, the print version was typically considered the version of record in various style guides and the like. Today, the printed version of a journal issue – when one even exists at all – is no longer given this primacy.

Additionally, the version of record is also not always the most recent version of an article. NISO identifies two follow-on possibilities (corrected and enhanced). Crossref presents a single category for all follow-on possibilities (updated), including retraction.

Finally, in the case of publicly available or open access articles, there is some additional nuance. For open access, the version of record may be gold and/or green – as the “color” of open access is not determined by version but by whether the copy is served by the publisher platform or elsewhere…”

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