Friday, October 21, 2011

Springer denies scientist access to her own research

The modern scientific method goes something like this:
  1. Obtain grants to fund your research.
  2. Conduct research.
  3. Write up results of your research.
  4. Submit your written work to a scientific journal.
  5. Sign a copyright transfer giving up all rights to your work.
The last step may sound crazy if you're not an academic, but we usually don't think twice about it. After all, the publisher you're giving the rights to would always give you access to your own work if you needed it.

The following letter from Dianne O'leary, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Maryland, is reproduced here with permission.

From: Dianne O'Leary
Date: Tue, 11 Oct 2011 13:42:18 -0400
Subject: Rejected Springer reprint request

On September 9, I wrote to Springer asking for a pdf file of one of my
Wang and O'Leary, Adaptive use of iterative methods in
predictor-corrector interior point methods for linear programming
Numerical Algorithms, 25 (2000) 387-406.

It took until October 8 for them to answer my request, and they
decided that I was not entitled to the pdf file of my own paper.

This doesn't seem to be the way to maintain the good will of the
community. They might have the legal right to make this decision, but
it seems to me that it is bad logic and bad business, since they rely
on us to provide, without financial compensation, the content for
their journals and the refereeing of other manuscripts.

My university does not subscribe to this journal -- too expensive --
so I was wondering if anyone had an idea of how I can obtain this pdf

Thanks much.

Dianne O'Leary

One more reason to be careful about the journals you submit to.  SIAM, for instance, allows the author not only unlimited use for personal purposes, but also to post the final version of the article on his/her institutional webpage.
By the way, Prof. O'Leary now has over 200 copies of her article -- so there's no need to indundate her inbox with more.  And apparently someone from Springer has now (on Oct. 19) given in and provided her official access to her article.

Update from Prof. O'leary on Nov. 1:

In response to my posting of trouble getting a pdf file of one of my
Springer-published papers, I received over 200 messages of support and
advice.  It is a great community!

M.J.D. (Mike) Powell was inspired to contact Springer, and in
response, I very promptly received the pdf file (which I have learned
that Springer is willing to supply to every author) and legal
permission to post it on my website (which Springer does not
ordinarily give).  This gives me exactly what I wanted, and I am

I had sent my original request to Springer from the website of the
article, clicking the "permissions and reprints" button at  Apparently,
this gives the wrong outcome if you are the author.  The people who
processed my request did not forward it to the appropriate person, the
editor, found using the "contact" button on the journal's homepage.

A week after my posting, Claude Brezinski, editor-in-chief of
Numerical Algorithms, wrote me saying that my message might be
interpreted as criticism of him and the editorial board of the
journal.  I meant no such criticism.

Elizabeth Loew of Springer has been very helpful in trying to solve
the problems and clarify the issues.  It is in the current Springer
copyright agreement that authors cannot post the journal pdf files to
their own websites.  Authors are allowed to email the pdf to

As Steve Vavasis noted last week, authors who care about making their
articles more available need to look into mechanisms such as the SPARC
copyright addendum:

See also the SHERPA/RoMEO site that provides the copyright policy for
many journals:


  1. This is why also posting papers to repositories like the arXiv is particularly important - to ensure that they are freely accessible rather than being locked away by journals...

  2. The same thing happened to me with the very first paper I published, in a journal called "Media, Culture & Society". Sage Publishing refused to provide me with a PDF copy, and my university hadn't subscribed to the journal - so I had to pay to get a scanned version via inter-library loan. That the inter-library loan license required me to print out the copy and then delete it from my hard-drive is yet another story :-)

  3. Nice outline, except you forgot step 0, which is use the money from your prior grant to get some preliminary data to help your application for the next grant.

    If that sounds circular, welcome to our world.


    If you want permanent, free online access to your own articles, for yourself and for all other users whose institutions can't afford to subscribe to the journal in which they were published, self-archive the refereed, revised final ("postprint") draft in your institutional repository immediately upon acceptance for publication. Springer journals are all among the over 60% of all journals (including virtually all the top journals in almost all fields) that are green on immediate open access self-archiving of the postprint. Forget about the PDF: It's not worth the trouble.

  5. This is the reason additionally presenting papers on vaults like the arxiv is especially imperative - to guarantee that they are openly open instead of being bolted away by diaries.For Details please Visit:
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