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I was taught as an undergraduate to be very careful when using and citing reprints of older books because they were frequently edited, abridged, or even censored. I was specifically warned not to use the "For Kids" editions of Shakespeare that removed all of the sex jokes and that failure to use the "real" versions would be punishable by catapult significant grade reduction if caught.

It occurred to me that I've never heard of censored editions of journals or articles cropping up. Are they a thing in academia at all? I did find a mention of journals choosing to censor themselves for political reasons, but I'm looking for cases where there are both censored and non-censored editions of a journal or article floating around. For example, I can imagine a "China Edition" of a geology journal in which "soil samples from Taiwan" has been edited into "soil samples from the Taiwan province of China" and in which a certain political dissident has been removed from the authors list. Similarly, I can imagine alternate editions of an educational research article in which literacy test scores in Crimea are alternately aggregated into Russian or Ukrainian statistics.

Do examples of censored journal publications exist, where there are both censored and non-censored versions floating around libraries and labs around the world and where knowing which one you have obtained a copy of might be important?

Cases such as the one I linked above, where a journal chooses to only publish a censored version of research everywhere in the world, do not count. Only cases where there are both censored and uncensored versions floating around (probably in different countries) count.

In response to Anonymous Physicist, I am asking specifically whether "censored alternative journals" exist in cases where a government (or university, faculty association, angry armed mob, etc.) would otherwise completely ban academic publications for political reasons. Such "alternative" journals would have omissions, additions, or changes to conform the research to political expectations (e.g. don't mention the human rights abuses happening in X City or don't acknowledge the scientific contributions of Y Persona Non Grata) while trying to preserve as much of the scientific message as possible.

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  • From your question it is diffuclt to distinguish censored from peer reviewed publication. In additiion, which field and social area are you involved in? More details is necessary since disagreement is widely different from censorship but depends on from where the critical views emerge, peers or social or political environments. So please add details to your question. Mar 15 at 21:55
  • In the modern age with universal communication it would seem to be pointless. If China were to object to terminology about Taiwan, they would object in any case. It is hard to see a benefit for anyone.
    – Buffy
    Mar 15 at 22:02
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    I have observed several journals that have a policy of neutrality with respect to territorial disputes. They specifically will not change ROC to PRC or the other way around. Mar 15 at 23:11

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Mostly no. People who want censorship are interested in popular movies and music. They subscribe to things like Christian movie streaming sites. They do not read scientific journals.

In countries where large portions of the internet are blocked, that includes academic journals and means of locating them. But there are not censored alternative journals.

The internet has defeated most forms of censorship that impact academics who know how to use a VPN.

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Presumably a censored version of an academic article would only constitute a separate "edition" if a non-censored version has also been published. After all, if the only version of the article is the one where the censorship has occurred then that is the definitive article, and anything else is just a draft copy. Consequently, if you are looking for cases of censored versions of articles, I'd look for cases where there is a published pre-print of an article that looks different to the version in the academic journal. Draft pre-prints are a common practice in academia (e.g., on pre-print servers, university webpages, personal webpages, etc.), but I'm not aware of any instances where there are separate editions of entire academic journals containing earlier pre-prints or different versions of the articles. So no, there are not any non-censored versions of academic journals, but there are servers containing pre-prints and earlier versions of articles.

If you are trying to identify earlier non-censored versions of academic articles, you will need to go back and look at pre-print versions or other published drafts and compare them on a case-by-case basis. One complication in considering this topic is that there are some parallels between conventional ceonsorship and the peer-review process for publication. In both cases the author submits their work to a gatekeeper who makes a determination on whether the work can be published in its current form (the distinction here being that a censor determines whether the work can be published at all whereas the peer-review process only determines whether the work can be published in academic journals). The gatekeeper makes an assessment of what authors can and cannot validly assert in their articles. Consequently, if one were to draw a broad meaning of the concept (which would be consistent with your contextual usage), one might argue that any instance of a peer-reviewed publication that differs from a pre-print version is a kind of "censored edition" of the article.

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  • Right, I'm looking only for examples where there are separate censored and uncensored "editions" circulating after publication. For example, something like, "The article Chang, Wang, and Lang (2006) in the J of Stuff is the uncensored version. Versions of that journal delivered to Chinese universities instead list only two authors (Chang and Wang) because Lang is a notorious dissident who was exiled in 2003 for advocating for Taiwanese independence. There is also some omission of beneficial health effects of Falun Gong practice on pages 4-5 because such practice is banned in China." May 5 at 15:56

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