According to SHERPA/RoMEO, many journals permit post-review preprints to be uploaded immediately to an author's "personal website", but apply an embargo period to "open access repositories" (example).

ResearchGate claim that individuals' profile pages on their site count as "personal websites" for these purposes, and thus that it is OK to upload to ResearchGate immediately. Is this true?

Caveats:

  1. The fully correct answer to this is probably "we don't know until/unless a publisher sues and there is case law". But I'm interested in any pronouncements or arguments that have been made on the topic.

  2. There are a lot of questions about ResearchGate and about sharing preprints on this site. I don't think that this is a duplicate of any of them... To clarify, following the close votes - I am asking specifically for the journal policies explained above, whether I can take the specific action described - not vaguely "is it OK to put published articles on RG".

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    Although the wording is slightly different, this is a possible duplicate of Is it legal to add your publications to ResearchGate? – Cape Code Dec 15 '16 at 9:44
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    @CapeCode that is a much vaguer question, the answers to which rightly consist mostly of "It depends on your publisher's policy". My question is far more specific, asking "given this specific publisher policy, is this action OK?". The answers to that question do not answer this one. – Flyto Dec 15 '16 at 11:00
  • Let me aim behind the question and ask you why you want to post your papers on ResearchGate. While somewhat useful as a storage for preprints, it has several major disadvantages, such as a harassing registration and paper request process that takes way more private data than needed. Why not actually make your own website, e.g. using GitLab pages ( pages.gitlab.io )? – darij grinberg Dec 15 '16 at 20:28
  • @darijgrinberg Because that's where people look, at least in my area. I do have my own website, and this paper is already there, but it's in my interest to make it as discoverable as possible, and ResearchGate is an important part of that. – Flyto Dec 15 '16 at 21:08
  • @SimonW: Okay, then you're using it right :) – darij grinberg Dec 15 '16 at 21:19
up vote 6 down vote accepted

The 2009 blog post you linked to makes the claim that

each profile page within ResearchGATE is legally considered the personal website of the user

Similar claims had been made by Academia.edu and Mendeley, according to Michael Clarke at the blog Scholarly Kitchen. He elaborates on these claims following an incident in 2013 in which Elsevier sent large numbers of DMCA takedown requests to Academia.edu:

William Gunn [of Mendeley] puts forth an argument that Mendeley has long used for hosting content they do not have explicit permission from rights holders to host: that an individual’s profile page on Mendeley (or by extension, Academia.edu) is that individual’s “personal website” and therefore covered under the exemption that many publishers provide to authors in both copyright and exclusive licensing agreements, allowing authors to post PDFs of their work to their own personal or institutional (e.g. their laboratory or departmental) website. Since papers are loaded to both Mendeley and Academia.edu by authors, the argument is that the paper is “self-archived” to the author’s personal website.

Leaving aside the fact that many publishers permit only the author’s accepted manuscript (and not the final PDF) to be self-archived, were one to accept this argument, by logical extension this would mean any commercial site (Academia.edu, ResearchGate, Facebook, LinkedIn, Scribd, Google, etc.) that sets up a profile page would have the right to host any research loaded to the site by an author. The distinction between a profile page on an academic or professional network and a personal or institutional website does not strike me as difficult to make and if it were ever an open question, as Mr. Gunn asserts, the question seems to have just been answered by the legal department of his own employer.

More recently, some publishers have begun to explicitly specify authors' rights regarding posting on sites like ResearchGate, and that these are different from authors' rights regarding posting on personal web pages. For example AIP defines

Within a commercial scholarly collaboration network (SCN) site:

An SCN is a professional networking site that facilitates collaboration among researchers as well as the sharing of data, results, and publications. SCNs include, for example, sites such as Academia.edu, ResearchGate, and Mendeley, among others.

as a separate category from "authors’ personal web page and employers’ web page".

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    Thanks. I'm interpreting this as "probably not" :-) – Flyto Dec 15 '16 at 11:03

I'd say that a key distinguishing characteristic of a "personal website" is that it can be considered non commercial.

ResearchGate is a company and uses the papers uploaded for commercial purposes such as recruitment.

The example journal in the link you provide is from Elsevier. As you can see the post-print (the post-review pre-print) should come with a CC-BY-NC-ND license -- that is only Non-Commercial use is allowed.

This means uploading to a commercial repository such as ResearchGate is not permitted as it does not meet the non-commercial aspect of a personal web site.

Note that many publishers, not just Elsevier, explicitly forbid sharing post-prints on commercial repositories.

  • Thanks. Incidentally, is it just me that finds the term "post-print" ridiculous? I can't bring myself to use it... – Flyto Jan 6 '17 at 20:30
  • Yes, the term is certainly ... confusing. But I'm grateful to SHERPA/RoMEO, and willing to follow their terminology. Elsevier's "author manuscript" is not very clear either. – avandeursen Jan 6 '17 at 20:39

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