I want to make a direct comparison between my simulation result and a published picture of other people's experimental result.

There are a lot of morphological features of similarity, which are difficult to describe by words only, and it should be better to simultaneously put the two results in my paper instead of suggesting readers to find that cited picture themselves, so I want to make the comparison by putting their picture and my numerical result side-by-side.


  1. The picture of their experimental result was an optical photograph in black and white, while my simulation result was colorized;

  2. My target journal is different from that of the cited paper.

I did find a similar example for my reference and thus I kind of doubt that this is not a usual practice in paper writing. Could anybody suggest me what should do before I prepare such a figure and submit my paper? Thank you!

2 Answers 2


If the source is an open-access paper under a creative commons license, it's easy - copy the figure and attribute the source and license.

If not... most publishers have a system for this. The STM Association, which covers the majority of mainstream scientific publishers, has a set of guidelines for permission between its members, setting out what is reasonable to reprint, and importantly has a general reciprocal agreement that they will honour each others requests without charge. This covers both books and journals, broadly speaking.

The STM list has the appropriate links per publisher. Some have a blanket permission, others require a bit of paperwork. For example -

  • a figure copied from a Portland Press-published paper does not require permission to be reused;
  • a figure copied from a Royal Society of Chemistry published paper does require permission, but this permission will be automatically granted at no cost if you fill in the online form correctly.

You do not need to do this before submission (at least, not in the cases I've dealt with) - it comes after acceptance when you know where it will be published and you're sorting out the details.

In the majority of cases, because copyright is transferred to the publisher (or they are given a very broad license to authorise republication) you do not need to approach the author. However, you might want to anyway.

Firstly, it's polite, and I'm sure they'd be pleased to know you're publishing something building on their work. :-)

Secondly, and potentially more importantly, permission to republish doesn't mean that the publisher will send you the files. You might need to get hold of a copy of the master images rather than the version put out by the first journal, in which case you'll have to speak nicely to the original author and hope they can find them...

  • Thanks for your suggestion and guidance. I need to reuse a figure from an Elsevier-published paper. According to the STM list, Elsevier does not require permission to be reused. So I can copy it in my paper directly with proper citation? In any case, it is only necessary for me to contact the publisher other than the journal and the author?
    – jsxs
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 2:09
  • @jsxs assuming your publisher is also an STM signatory, that should be fine - note that the citation should probably include a copyright note. when accepted, the publisher may ask you to confirm permissions for the figure, in which case you can always go through the RightsLink process outlined here - elsevier.com/about/our-business/policies/copyright/permissions - it's fairly painless if you remember to tick the right boxes. Commented May 23, 2017 at 19:05

You will need to contact both the corresponding author of the cited paper and the journal the paper is published in. The details surrounding what you can do with republished figures differs by the source journal's policies and licenses (see how PLOS has a CC BY license, for example). The key element is to secure written permission from people responsible for the original figure - the source journal will let you know know how to handle that.

  • Afaik you don't need to contact the authors at all, just the journal. Many journals got a system for requests like that.
    – user64845
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 16:37
  • This is true in some cases, like for Nature journals: nature.com/reprints/faqs.html - primarily because the publisher retains the copyright. Edited answer accordingly.
    – Harry
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 16:55
  • @DSVA, do you mean the publisher instead of the journal?
    – jsxs
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 2:10

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .