Exploring researcher preference for the version of record

To what extent does article version matter to researchers? Does the version of record (VOR) offer significantly more value to them, to the extent that it would impact the way a researcher might discover, read or share a research output?

Exploring researcher preference for the version of record is a new white paper by Springer Nature in collaboration with ResearchGate, exploring researcher preference for the VOR, compared to other article versions such as the accepted manuscript (AM) or preprints.

The white paper provides evidence of the value of the VOR and immediate gold open access (OA), bringing together both analysis of VOR usage, and feedback from readers and authors via an online questionnaire.

Key findings

  • Researchers prefer to read and cite the article VOR. 83% of respondents preferred working with the VOR for citing content in their own work, compared with 9% preferring AMs, and 2% preferring preprints.
  • Researchers believe the article VOR is easier to read and is more reliable. In open text answers, respondents commented on the reassurance that peer review and proof of publication give to the VOR, pointing to the lack of time researchers have to read a large volume of content, and the desire to quickly assess and cite an article. 
  • Researchers are more likely to look for ways to find the article VOR, rather than an AM or preprint. Where authors did not have access to the VOR (i.e. they did not have access via a subscription or as a result of it being published OA), the majority -- nearly 9 in 10 researchers -- will take direct action to gain access to the VOR (e.g. contact the author). 
  • Alternative versions of the article can offer value, but with caveats on use. Even though the VOR is preferred, many researchers also feel comfortable using a preprint or an AM for reading and, in some instances, for citing. Speed of availability, in particular, is noted as a benefit from preprints. 
  • The article VOR is considered the most authoritative and credible source by the majority of researchers. Researcher preference for the VOR highlights the value added by publishers, in particular with reference to the ‘stamp of credibility’ that publication in a recognised journal brings.

Explore article versions

In scholarly publishing, multiple versions of an author’s publication are often available online, prior to and post-publication. This whitepaper focuses on the preprint, AM and VOR version. 

  • Preprint: The author's version of a research manuscript, before formal peer review, deposited on a public server. Preprints can be posted at any time during the peer review process.
  • Accepted manuscript (AM): The version of a research paper accepted by a journal after peer review. This version does not include any changes made after acceptance such as copy editing, or typesetting. Usually AMs are shared on a repository or the author's website, and not the journal website.
  • Version of Record (VOR), also known as the final published version: The version that has been published in a journal, in print and/or online. This article will include any editorial improvements such as copy editing, or typesetting, made after the peer review process is complete. It is usually available on a publisher website, in PDF and/or HTML format. 

Download a comparison of article versions