I have a paper accepted in a Springer Nature journal. Now I have to sign a publishing agreement. I am currently a postdoc in the USA at a state university. When I submitted the paper I was in a different University, in another country.

The journal requires me to answer if I am:

  • An employee of the United States Government

  • An employee of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada or Australia

  • Neither of the above

Should I tick the first or the last one?

  • 2
    You should know if you are an employee of the US, no? If at a university (unless something like the Naval Academy) you are not an employee of the US Government.
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 8, 2023 at 18:39
  • 1
    Are you a post-doc at a US National Lab, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, or the National Institutes of Health? If not, you're not an employee of the US Government. If you are currently and employee of the US government, you have to choose the first option.
    – Ian
    Sep 8, 2023 at 18:46
  • Thank you for the answers. I am at a State University, so I thought that counted as US government.
    – matrp
    Sep 8, 2023 at 18:47
  • 2
    @matrp Articles are important. A state government is a government in the US, but is not the US government.
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 8, 2023 at 18:57

2 Answers 2


It is common for employees of public universities operated by their state to be considered state employees. It is not common for them to be federal (US government) employees, even if they are paid by federal funds. If you are working at a US federal institution you may be a US government employee, but you may also be working for a contractor and are not actually a government employee. If you work in the US for someone who is not the US government, you are not a US government employee.

If you are a federal employee of the US government, you should check that box. If you're not, you shouldn't.

  • 2
    DOE National Laboratory employees are not US government employees, but the funding is (generally) US government funding and as such we do not convey copyright to publishers since the US government retains that right.
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 8, 2023 at 18:51
  • Wow, I'm surprised to learn that DoE National Lab employees are not US Government employees.
    – Ian
    Sep 8, 2023 at 18:52
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    @Ian I don't know about the DoE labs specifically, but a surprising amount of US government jobs have been privatized, stripping the salaries and benefits of those employees to turn into profits for companies that really only specialize in contract bidding, in the name of some sort of magical capitalistic efficiency. Why pay someone $100k a year incl. benefits when you can pay a private company $120k to pay them $70k? Actual federal jobs are really sought after.
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 8, 2023 at 18:55
  • @JonCuster for trivia sake, one (but I cannot quickly find which one) of the DOE labs is run by the feds and not contractors energy.gov/labcommission/articles/… Sep 8, 2023 at 19:48
  • 1
    @RichardErickson I believe it's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), which has three geographically distinct locations.
    – Anyon
    Sep 8, 2023 at 23:23

By default, you are not an employee of the US Gov't so check "No" on the authorship form. Your answer is really hinged to the question: where does your paycheck come from? Answer: the university.

The reason this question is asked by publishers is because authors who are US Gov't employees have different legal rights when it comes to copyright ownership and intellectual property.

The issue becomes tricky if the research you performed was funded by a grant/contract from a US agency for which you need approval/review to publish. Thus, check with your supervisor on any grant/contract constraints, since they usually exist.

Based on my experience, the US Dept of Energy (DoE) has a lot of constraints on publications/IP for anyone funded by contracts from e.g. LBL or LLNL. As a rule-of-thumb, you can change a university contract, but can't change boilerplate contracts at DOE.

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