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Some conference papers have misleading names, for example, 'journal of physics conference series' with both journal and conference in the name. 'journal of physics conference series' is almost like a journal because it publishes full manuscripts on their website but it also has conference in its name because it collects submissions from a conference that really takes place somewhere. PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY A is just a journal rather than a conference. In such cases how to tell if a publication is really a journal or a conference?

To tell if something is a conference or a journal doesn't really matter that much but there is a follow up question. If it's considered a conference with a full manuscript, it is possible to publish roughly the same contents on another normal journal. If it's considered a journal then of course there's no reason to publish it on another journal once again.

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Once a paper appears it is unlikely that another reputable publisher will consider republishing it. There are several reasons, including (lack of) novelty and copyright restrictions.

If it isn't clear whether a paper appeared at a conference (which really shouldn't happen), then you need to ask the publisher. But the difference may be immaterial in some fields.

Note that some conferences publish papers in a "proceedings" and then publish a (perhaps edited) version in a journal that is somehow connected to the conference. Others just treat the proceedings as the final word and consider those proceedings to be the equivalent of a journal. This is common in computing when a conference is sponsored by one of the large membership organizations. The ACM, for example, has a worldwide spread of conferences.

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  • thanks! PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY A has a misleading name but it's just a journal I think
    – feynman
    Feb 2, 2023 at 4:09
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    Proceedings of the IEEE is also a journal.
    – JRN
    Feb 2, 2023 at 4:17
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    Actually, a membership organization (a society) may well have a "proceedings" unrelated to any conference. It is pretty typical, actually.
    – Buffy
    Feb 2, 2023 at 11:13
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Papers published in Journal of Physics: Conference Series are usually quite easy to identify as conference papers from the PDFs. On the website, the volume of the "journal" sometimes directly names the conference, but sometimes you only find out by clicking through to the volume.

One way to tell if a publication venue is a conference proceeding or a journal is to look it up on Scopus. Here is the page for Journal of Physics: Conference Series, which is identified as a proceeding. Compare with the case of Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical, which is identified as a journal. I'm not sure if this would identify cases where a journal would publish proceedings of some specific conference as a special issue, but again, special issues/volumes are usually clearly labeled.

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