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Suppose someone publishes a survey paper in some journal on a topic where a lot of work is still going on. A lot of new interesting works are expected to be published every year on this topic. Is it a good idea to upload a version of the survey on Arxiv and keep on updating it? In that case, should the Arxiv version contain a note that an earlier version was published in so-and-so journal?

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    It's worth noting that article versioning can sometimes cause unexpected problems if not explained very clearly - witness the recent problems with the History Manifesto. scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2015/04/16/… – Andrew May 2 '15 at 22:02
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    Updates are certainly welcomed by many readers, particularly when they are more or less transparent as to what is updated (this kind-of happens by default on arXiv, since you can diff the sourcecodes, but you can and should also make a comment on the update) and are more or less transparent as to whether the new version is older than, identical to, or newer than the published version (this is left unclear by many authors). Now, what makes a good update and what makes a better followup paper instead? That's a more complicated matter, and Anonymous Mathematician commented on it well. – darij grinberg May 2 '15 at 22:27
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    If I cite claim X in your paper, and you then remove claim X from your paper in an update, what happens? Am I supposed to keep checking you submission for updates forever? – Superbest May 2 '15 at 23:47
  • @Superbest: arXiv keeps old versions around forever. What you are supposed to (lots of people don't get it, though) is include the version number in your citation. – darij grinberg May 3 '15 at 3:42
  • @darij I really don't see the need to cite specific versions. Pointing to the versionless identifier will always bring up the most up-to-date version, which I expect is what most people would like. If there is any problem with e.g. claims being removed from a manuscript, then (i) this should be clearly indicated in the submission comments, and (ii) it can clearly be traced using the submission timestamps. – E.P. May 3 '15 at 14:35
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Is it a good idea to upload a version of the survey on Arxiv and keep on updating it?

It's worth doing if you have the time and energy, but it's unconventional. There are some continuously updated survey papers (such as the dynamic surveys in the Electronic Journal of Combinatorics), but the usual expectation is that a survey represents a snapshot in time. As a career matter, writing a second survey on recent results a few years later may get you more attention and credit than updating your original survey. Continuous updates can be especially useful if they are timely and the field is particularly hot, but they have their own limitations in a rapidly developing field (the original organization may weigh you down if you stick too closely to it).

From my perspective, the trickiest aspect is what to tell people. If you silently update the paper, it won't attract as many readers as announcing that everyone should check back for periodic updates. (And the whole purpose is to inform the community, so getting readers is important.) On the other hand, it's difficult to commit to regular updates, and it's nice to avoid issues such as whether other authors should be unhappy that their latest results haven't made it into the survey yet.

In that case, should the Arxiv version contain a note that an earlier version was published in so-and-so journal?

If you update the arXiv version of a paper after publication, it's critically important to be clear about how it relates with the published version. Otherwise you risk confusing and upsetting your readers.

I would recommend against removing anything from the survey over time. It would still be accessible via past versions on the arXiv for those who know to look there, but it's annoying to send a student to learn about X in Arani's survey and have them report back that it's not covered.

  • +1 to all of this. Things should not be removed unless irreparably wrong. – darij grinberg May 2 '15 at 22:28
  • One possible issue with not removing content is that the work becomes less of a survey; the length increases disproportionately to the breadth. Obsolete material (which may still be of historical interest and not be "irreparably wrong") adds length without being as helpful in understanding the current state of the art generally. A reference might be justified — along the lines of "X, which improved on the work of Y," — at least for one or perhaps two generations from current, but description (I think) can be avoided. Surveys are not histories, though they can be useful for historical study. – Paul A. Clayton May 3 '15 at 0:02
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I'd say yes, the paper would be valuable for the community, and yes (it must cite the published version).

It would be a good idea to include some kind of version information in the title or on the title page, so that people can cite the version of your survey they use. This could be a simple as adding the subtitle "Version of May 2015" and change that whenever you produce a new version.

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