Licensing your work on PsyArXiv

By Hannah Moshontz

What is a license?

When you create something, you are its legal owner (i.e., you hold the copyright) until or unless you give it to someone else (e.g., a publisher) or place it in the public domain. Under fair use, other people can legally copy portions of a non-public work without getting permission from the copyright holder for purposes like teaching and criticism or commentary. A license is a means by which a copyright holder gives permission to other people or organizations about using, copying, and distributing their work for purposes beyond fair use. It puts in specific terms how a work can (and cannot) be used and specifies whether and how attributions should be made.

What are the licensing options on PsyArXiv?

Although anyone can license work that they own however they’d like to and can indicate as such on their preprint, PsyArXiv supports two Creative Commons licensing options that will meet most posters’ needs. By default, works uploaded to PsyArXiv have no license, but a license can be added by the user anytime before or after submission. As described in more detail below, the two licenses PsyArXiv supports are: CC0 (specifically, CC0 1.0 Universal), which places work in the public domain, and CC-By (CC-By Attribution 4.0 International) which allows others to use and build on a work as long as they give the original author credit.

As of April 17, 2018, the majority of PsyArXiv uploads have a CC-By attribution (57%) and fewer have a CC0 (29%) or no license (13%).

Bar graph depicting number of preprints using various licenses. The bar on the left shows that 57% of preprints use a CC-By license. The middle bar shows that 29% use a CC0 license. The bar on the right represents preprints with no license, which is 13% of the total.

What should I consider when making a decision about licensing the work I post on PsyArXiv?

Typically, as psychological scientists, we want our work to be read, built upon, shared in full with others, and used to develop tools or interventions. Most of us also expect and assume that when someone describes our work, shares it, builds on it, or otherwise uses it, they will include a citation and perhaps a link to a URL where our work can be accessed. These preferences and expectations fit well with a CC-By license, which allows you to retain copyright and get credit while letting other people use your work freely.

In some instances, though less commonly for written work, we want people to use our work however they’d like, meaning that they can copy it in full, modify it, and profit from it without giving us any credit. These preferences fit well with a CC0 license, which puts work in the public domain. Works in the public domain belong to or are available to the public as a whole without being subject to copyright.

What are the benefits of licensing posted work?

In the absence of a license, readers must make guesses and assumptions about our preferences and expectations. Many PsyArXiv readers may reasonably assume that they can use posted work just as they use scholarly products in journals and other publication venues (fair use). Many of us don’t mind–and indeed want–people to use our work in ways that extend beyond fair use (e.g., distributing it in a coursebook for students). When this is the case and we do not license our work, we leave it to our readers to intuit our preferences and introduce ambiguity around the legality of dissemination, distribution, and reuse.

When can I license my work on PsyArXiv?

If you hold the copyright of a work you are posting to PsyArXiv (e.g., if you are the author and haven’t given rights to anyone else), then you can license it. If you have given away rights in part or whole, you may still be able to license it. Often, copyright agreements that academic authors make with non-open access publishers transfer ownership completely to publishers and give them the exclusive rights to a particular version of the article (e.g., the post-peer review, formatted version). Many such publishing agreements allow the authors to retain some rights, like the right to self-archive and the retention of copyright associated with the pre-peer-review version (i.e., the pre-print), in ways that allow the author to license the preprint as CC-By or CC0. Each agreement is different and additional complexities are introduced by other agreements authors may have made, for example, related to institutional repositories at their university.

If you are uncertain about whether you can post or post and license a particular work–for example, an article that has been published in a journal–utilize the many free resources that can help you understand your rights (e.g., SHERPA/RoMEO, Creative Commons). Many institutions have legal scholars in the library who can assist you in understanding your specific copyright agreement, and who can help you modify copyright agreements or otherwise retain rights as desired before you’ve published your work.

Additional resources related to fair use and licenses

Thank you to Haley Walton, Outreach Coordinator for Open Access at Duke University Perkins Library, for consulting on this piece.

Interview: Cory Costello

Profile picture for Cory CostelloWe are starting a series of blog posts interviewing different authors who have posted to PsyArXiv. The goal of these posts is to spotlight different uses and experiences of PsyArXiv and to help the community get to know some of our authors a little better. In our first post, Ben Brown, Associate Professor of Psychology at Georgia Gwinnett College and Chair of the PsyArXiv Steering Committee, interviews Cory Costello, a graduate student at the University of Oregon.  

Ben: First of all, congratulations on your first first-authored paper and the attention that the preprint has received! As I mentioned previously, PsyArXiv is starting a series of blog posts interviewing different authors about their uses and experiences of PsyArXiv. To start, would you mind introducing yourself to our readers?

Cory:  Thanks—both for the kind words and this opportunity! My name is Cory Costello, I’m a graduate student and doctoral candidate in the Psychology Department at the University of Oregon, working primarily with Sanjay Srivastava in the Personality and Social Dynamics Lab. Before getting to Oregon, I was an MA student in the Department of Psychology at Wake Forest University, where I worked primarily with Dustin Wood (now at University of Alabama). I did my undergrad at a small, public, Liberal Arts College called New College of Florida. My research interests revolve around personality assessment/measurement, personality development, interpersonal perception, reputation, and how personality is expressed and perceived online (in online social networking environments, such as Twitter). More broadly, I’m interested in methodology, data analysis, and how to make psychological science better, more open, and more reproducible.   

Ben:  Can you tell me a little about this new method for assessing personality?

Cory: The basic idea of the method was to take this idea of revealed preferences and apply it to personality assessment. Revealed preference techniques are used in some areas of psychology (e.g., close relationships/attraction) and seem to be even more common in behavioral economics. The basic idea of revealed preferences is that rather than asking people about their preferences for different features (e.g., do you find confident people attractive?), you can instead infer (or reveal) their preferences by correlating some criterion (a rating, a choice behavior, etc.) with the absence or presence of those features (e.g., do they rate more confident people as being more attractive?).

We attempted to take a similar approach to personality assessment, with the assumption that personality traits primarily describe patterns of trait-relevant behavior (e.g., someone’s level of a trait like dependable means they tend to more often behave in ways that are described as dependable). So we administered a bunch of short action scenarios to participants that set up a situation (e.g., you come home and your living space is messy from your roommate cooking) and asked them how likely they would be to respond in a particular way (e.g., how likely would you be to clean up the mess?). Then, we had another group of participants rate each of these actions (e.g., cleaning up after your messy roommate) on 23 bi-polar personality adjectives (e.g., dependable/reliable vs. undependable/unreliable). The correlation between the likelihood ratings and the independently rated trait-ness (we call this action characterization in the paper) of each action is what we’re calling a revealed trait estimate. So it’s sort of like one of those old choose your own adventure novels, but where your choices are being rated, and seen as reflecting your personality.

One kind of neat thing about this approach is that its pretty flexible. In addition to having the action scenarios rated for their trait-ness, we also had them coded for expected effects (e.g., the likelihood of being rejected), which we were interested in because of their relevance to personality trait judgments (which we had been working on in a previous, related project: Wood, Tov, & Costello, 2015). But in theory, you could code actions for other variables of interest.

I guess the last thing to mention is that we think this technique might be especially useful in contexts where more typical personality assessment may have problems. In our case, we were interested in applying it cross-culturally, as there have been some surprising results in cross-cultural comparisons of personality that may stem from measurement issues. Of course, some of the measurement issues may still affect revealed traits, but some might be mitigated. In particular, having a standard set of raters characterize the actions (rate their trait-ness) means that we can rule out that any cultural differences stem from using a trait term differently. For example, we can rule out that differences in revealed outgoingness between the two groups we looked at (which we found in both studies) are due to different understandings of what it means for an action to be outgoing, because that judgement is being made by a standard group. A similar technique (Situation Judgment Tasks) has been developed in the I/O psych literature on assessment to deal with some similar challenges in workplace assessment.

Ben: Sounds like a cool, novel approach! What do you think the benefits are of sharing such a novel approach on PsyArXiv?

Cory: My main motivation for sharing this particular work on PsyArXiv was to provide easier access to it. I first started working on this manuscript the summer of 2014. I had just finished my Master’s degree at Wake Forest and I hadn’t yet started the PhD program at University of Oregon. There was this 3 month gap in my access to all of the tools/resources provided by a university (library subscriptions, SPSS site license, etc.), but I was still trying to get work done on a few projects, including this one. Whenever I was searching for literature I was always so grateful to see a link to a PDF on Google Scholar (usually posted on a personal or lab website, since this was before PsyArXiv). I ended up with this list of articles I had to look up when I got access to a library subscription. I mean, it ended up working out alright in the end, but I can’t help but feel like a stronger preprint culture in psychology would have saved me a bit of a headache.

Incidentally, that summer is also when I first started learning R, which was prompted by not having access to SPSS. Necessity is a great motivator.

Had PsyArXiv existed when I first submitted this paper, I would have loved to post it earlier in the pipeline (either pre-submission, or at the time of initial submission) to elicit feedback. Sanjay Srivastava, Gerard Saucier, and I did that with a different paper, and received some interesting and helpful feedback on Twitter.

Ben: It sounds like that’s a pretty stable (and awesome!) motivating factor. How likely are you to share work on PsyArXiv in the future? Why?

Cory: I hesitate to say 100% likely—I have a pretty unshakable sense of uncertainty about just about everything. With that said, I’d say I’m extremely likely (effectively 100% likely) to share my work on PsyArXiv in the future. I’d say my primary motivation is still making the manuscript easier to access. As I alluded to in my last email, I’d like to get more in the habit of sharing pre-submission/working papers on PsyArXiv to elicit feedback, and so I suspect my motivation to share work on PsyArXiv will be increasingly driven by seeking feedback. I’m working on a few different manuscripts right now, and I think we (Sanjay and I) will post pre-prints at the time of initial submission (maybe before that; he and I haven’t explicitly discussed that yet).

One day, I’d like to post them before submission to potentially get feedback that I can incorporate into the manuscript before the initial submission, but I just don’t know if that extended timeline makes sense at my current career stage. In my perfect world, hiring committee expectations would be calibrated to a more extended timeline like that (e.g., preprints on a CV would be seen more positively; grad students would be expected to have fewer pubs, more preprints; etc.), but I don’t know if the field is there yet. So, for the time being, my goal is to post a preprint on PsyArXiv concurrently to submitting it to a journal, but hopefully I’ll be able to move posting the preprint to an earlier point in that pipeline eventually.

Ben: Thanks!  What has been your experience of sharing your work on PsyArXiv? Anything surprising?

Cory: It’s been a positive experience. I’ll admit, it was nerve-racking when we posted the first preprint I was involved in (Sanjay posted the preprint), especially because we posted that at the time of initial submission. I had this sort of slight feeling of dread: ‘what if there was some obvious mistake in the manuscript or data/code we posted?! At least if these things come up in peer review it’s private!’ But, in the end, it was fine, and led to some really great feedback on Twitter.

I think the most surprising thing occurred with that same preprint I just mentioned. I was telling someone about the project recently, and they responded with, “Oh, this is the preprint you guys posted in PsyArXiv, right?” I guess I still sort of have in my mind that if a paper hasn’t been published in a journal, no one would know or care about it. But that preprint has been downloaded quite a bit (314 as of today). We’re still figuring out what to do with that manuscript (it was rejected on our initial submission), but I feel really grateful that the work is available to others in the meantime.

Ben: That’s encouraging to hear that PsyArXiv has helped to make your work more visible.  Are there any new features you would like to see from PsyArXiv in the future?

Cory: I’d like to see features that sort of perform the curating role that journals often perform. It might be helpful if it recommended similar preprints (to the one you’re viewing). One thing that I think would be cool, and maybe the blog is aimed at doing this, would be to have some sort of monthly list of preprints (similar to subscribing to a journal). I’m thinking some sort of most viewed/downloaded set of preprints within topic area(s) the person has indicated interest.

Ben: Thanks for those ideas, Cory! I’ll pass them along and see what we can do. One last question: What would you say to a friend who is thinking about posting?

Cory: I would say go for it! It’s a great way to get your work out there – both so that people learn what you found, and so they can tell you how the work can be improved. Plus, it’ll make it easier for folks to find your work if they’re in between universities and still trying to get their research done.

Introducing PsyArXiv: Psychology’s dedicated open access digital archive

Contributed by David Barner, Benjamin Brown, and Alex Holcombe

PsyArXiv (PsyArXiv.com), psychology’s dedicated Open Access digital archive, launches today.

Today, PsyArXiv officially launches its open access digital archive, PsyArXiv.com, dedicated to psychological science. PsyArXiv joins a growing collection of online archives in fields including physics, biology, linguistics, and sociology, by providing a free, open access outlet for new findings in the psychological sciences.

According to Benjamin Brown, a developmental psychologist at Georgia Gwinnett College, “PsyArXiv makes new scientific knowledge accessible to all researchers, regardless of whether their universities have access to costly journal subscriptions. In an era that some describe as one of fake news and information bubbles, PsyArXiv gives the public free, first-hand access to new science, meaning that journalists, politicians, business leaders, and high school science teachers can all download the newest science and use facts to inform their decision making, and to fuel their natural curiosity about science.”

Like other scholarly archives such as Cornell’s original arXiv.org, PsyArXiv allows researchers to upload working papers, unpublished work, and articles currently under review (preprints), making them accessible to researchers and the public at no cost. PsyArXiv also permits researchers to share their work months or years earlier than usual, while also making it openly available to the public. PsyArXiv promises to create free, open access to psychological science, even for papers that are ultimately published in journals that are only accessible to subscribers.

Alex Holcombe, a cognitive psychologist and vision scientist at the University of Sydney, notes that PsyArXiv “allows researchers to get early feedback on their work from a larger pool of peers than through traditional journal processes. This both speeds science and leads to a better final product — a revised PsyArXiv entry, eventual journal publication, or both.”

PsyArXiv provides support for multiple versions of a file, within-browser rendering of manuscripts, inclusion of supplementary files, data, and code, appropriate metadata, and links to resulting journal articles including DOIs. PsyArXiv’s infrastructure is provided by the Center for Open Science, which also provides simultaneous search of PsyArXiv and other preprint services. Details regarding future plans for PsyArXiv, including new features, can be found at this roadmap.

PsyArXiv welcomes contributions from all areas of psychology, and hosts papers under review, working papers, and manuscripts that might be difficult to publish in traditional venues, such as replications of previous work or failures to replicate. Also, it allows researchers to update their files as their manuscripts benefit from community comments and the traditional journal review process. Researchers can upload papers and find out more about PsyArXiv at both PsyArXiv.com and on our blog, or can ask questions at info@psyarxiv.com.

PsyArXiv Frequently Asked Questions

What is a preprint?

A preprint is a draft of a scholarly manuscript made available to the public prior to publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Why post a preprint?

Making one’s work available as a preprint has several advantages. First, it rapidly disseminates the findings of your research (it takes just minutes to upload a paper to PsyArXiv). Second, you can receive feedback rapidly and prior to submission to a peer-reviewed journal. This improves the overall quality of scholarship. Third, preprints submitted to PsyArXiv are available to anyone with Internet access; this allows scholars, citizens, and businesses without journal subscriptions or access to academic libraries (including, importantly, those in developing nations) to access a version of scientific publications at no charge. Finally, preprints add transparency to the scientific process by allowing access to different (i.e., pre-review, pre-editorial) versions of a manuscript.

Why upload to this particular archive?

PsyArXiv is the premiere preprint archive for the psychological sciences, and it is run by a community organization – the Society for the Improvement in Psychology Science.  The technology is provided by the Center for Open Science, a non-profit that many psychologists are already using to share their data and other materials. New features are coming, such as commenting, that we hope will promote a rich dialogue about cutting-edge psychological research.

How do I submit a manuscript to PsyArXiv?

Simply visit http://psyarxiv.com and click on “Add a preprint.” The site will walk you through a five-step process of uploading a new preprint or adding a preprint directly from the Open Science Framework.

How do journals deal with preprints?

Journals differ in terms of how they deal with the posting of preprints. Prior to uploading a manuscript to PsyArXiv, you should review the policies of any journal you are considering as an outlet (SHERPA/RoMEO is a database containing the policies of most journals). Usually, preprints that do not include changes made as a part of the journal editorial and reviewing process may be made available through PsyArXiv. In some cases journals allow edited versions of a paper accepted for publication to be made available on a preprint server; however, the publisher’s version (i.e., that which includes formatting, layout, etc.) will likely remain the property of the journal (and thus not available for posting to PsyArXiv), except in the case of open-access journals. Authors can also negotiate for permission to post their preprints using tools such as the SPARC Author Addendum.

What were the motivations for creating PsyArXiv?

PsyArXiv was founded in order to speed and improve psychological science. It was established to increase access to scientific findings and papers. Certainly all of us within academia, and a great number of the lay public, have encountered obstacles (paywalls, combing through overlapping search engines, etc.) in gaining access to articles. Such obstacles relegate access to some of the highest quality research to a privileged few. An insular, rigidly hierarchical science is a sick science.

The current journal publishing system heavily emphasizes novel, positive, unexpected results. Studies which fail to meet this threshold are often left in the proverbial “file drawer.” Yet not disseminating null results is detrimental to the quality and caliber of published work as well as to the advancement of scientific knowledge. Preprint servers enable scientists to clear their “file drawer” in the same way they might have had such studies been accepted for publication. This informs researchers about boundary conditions and reduces the repetition of failures across many labs which, at present, simply go unrecognized. Such failures end up draining public funds and waste valuable time.

Preprint servers also serves the aim of improving science by seeking to increase the quality of published work. The peer review process at most journals solicits feedback from two or three academics; in contrast, a preprint service offers the opportunity to provide and receive feedback from a broader range of academics, and can encourage feedback on the structure, presentation of analyses, and readability of a paper, in addition to the theoretical and/or empirical claims in the paper. This additional feedback can greatly improve the quality of work that is eventually published.

Why now?

Over the last several years, researchers, funders, and governments have increasingly recognized the need for more transparent and open science, both in the process of conducting studies and in that of disseminating results. More emphasis is being placed on attempting to replicate studies; individuals are encouraged or required to post their data and materials; analytic and methodological transparency, including reporting of null findings, has been strongly encouraged; and there has been increased recognition of the problems posed by the file drawer. All of these changes have culminated in an understanding that the current processes by which studies are discovered and, at times, disseminated stand in direct opposition to many of the aspirational goals of open science.

Is this service a replacement for journals?

PsyArXiv is not intended to replace journals. A preprint service is primarily intended to offer access to manuscripts before publication. However, in fields like physics and computer science, the popular arXiv.org preprint service (from which the PsyArXiv name comes) has become an integral part of the publication process. Posting one’s manuscript to arXiv greatly increases discoverability, meaning that one’s work is more likely to be seen, discussed, and cited. For science in the age of the Internet, the role of journals may become largely a way to collate research into relevant categories based on topic, discipline, or geography. However, formal peer review is an integral part of science, and journals play a critical role in facilitating this function.