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What if I submit a same preprint to several open access repositories, e.g. arxiv, vixra, philica etc.?

I guess doing so would give to a paper more visibility. But would it be a bad practice? Would it be unethical? Scientific community would complain or blacklist me? Is there any copyright issues, or other notes that I should know? What do you advice?

I know it's unethical to submit a paper to more than a journal (or maybe conferences), but here I want to know about preprints and open repositories.

6

From the viewpoint of the repository (although, I am speaking primarily from the viewpoint of a university institutional repository), it would not be considered unethical or undesirable for authors to submit their work to more than one repository. Open repositories are built to increase access to the products of research and creativity, by making works publicly and freely available online. Submitting work to more than one repository is another way for an author to increase accessibility to his/her work.

The only copyright issue present would lie in the relationship between the author and the publisher that published the author's article. Most journals allow authors to deposit pre-prints of their work, that do not contain any edits or revisions from the publication process, in open repositories. Others allow authors to deposit pre-prints of their work that have been revised to show the revisions made in the publication process, and a few journals will allow authors to deposit the final publisher's version of the article. Some publishers will want their authors to wait a few months after publication before making their works accessible through open repositories.

Journals rely on the quality and originality of the articles they publish to build reputation. As most journals charge subscription fees, the originality of their articles is important. Open repositories do not operate on this model, so the ethics of publishing in journal do not translate to depositing your work in an open repository. Most repositories require their authors to sign a non-exclusive distribution license to deposit their work, which allows the repository to make the work accessible online. As a non-exclusive license, authors retain the right to submit their work to journals, other publications and other repositories.

Different open repositories have different functions. Institutional repositories capture the research and creative outputs of their host institutions. Subject-based repositories capture the the work being done in a specific field. Because repositories exist for different reasons, I would see no problem in submitting your work to multiple repositories.

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At first glance, I don't think it would be an ethical problem, but it could be a management one: if you need to update the pre-print, you could take the risk to have inconsistent versions available. It could also be confusing for those who are looking for your paper: if I see a paper with the same title on two different open repositories, I might wonder if there is a difference between the two versions, download the two versions, realize they are the same, and dislike the fact that I just wasted some time.

Moreover, it could also be interpreted as an attempt to artificially increase your citation count, and that could be frowned upon. For instance, in Computer Science, DBLP is often considered as a good publication indicator. If you publish a paper on arXiv, on ePrint and at a conference later, that's 3 references for a single paper. Someone realizing this might think that you're just trying to abuse the system.

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In addition to the great answers by hnltraveler and user102 on the moral aspects of the question let me add some more technical points:

Duplicates in scholar search services

If you are searching for publications with Google Schoolar or similar you will find that these systems already aggregate multiple sources for the same publication.

Examples

So you wont confuse your audience with multiple identical versions (just be sure to update all of them if you change something).

Licences

Preprint services let you choose the license of your work (for example Creative Commons) and with many of these even other people could re-upload your work onto other services. As long as you hold the copyright to your work (or remain the right to publish a preprint version) you can upload your paper to as many repositories as you like.

References/Persistent Identifier

Some preprint services like Zenodo allow you to set a relation to another source (via Identifier like DOI): Zenodo Example*

Related identifiers:

Identical to:

10.17605/OSF.IO/FN5ST

You can also add multiple references to the same work in your ORCID profile: ORCID Example*

  • References to my own work as I didn't find other examples really quickly enough.

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