Self-archiving and psychology journals

Last year we did an analysis, here at the JEPS Bulletin, trying to find out how many of the most reputable journals in psychology are open access. The conclusion was, to say the least, defeating. But as Stevan Harnad likes to remind us, gold open access journals are far from being the only route to achieving widespread access to scientific literature. Green open access is a way to go too. But can scholars, and under what conditions, archive the articles they publish in topmost psychology journals? That’s what we’re going to find out in today’s post.


What are the policies in the most prestigious journals in psychology on self-archiving? Do they allow it, and if yes, under what conditions?


To find the answer to our question on archiving policy, one would need to go through all the journals’ webpages and try to find their copyright and access statements, classify them and organize them into an understandable output. Right?

Wrong, if you know what SHERPA RoMEO is. RoMEO is basically a searchable database indexing self-archiving policies of most publishers and their journals. At RoMEO, they classify journals in colors – each color signifying a different policy on self-archiving. Green is the policy with most leeway, allowing archiving of pre-prints and post-prints or publishers’ versions of the article. Blue level allows archiving post-prints (i.e. final draft post-refereeing) or publisher’s versions of the article. Yellow allows archiving of pre-refereeing manuscripts (pre-prints) and the last, and least access policy, is white – no formal support for self-archiving from the publisher.


As with the last analysis of the number of Gold Open access journals, I used the list of top impact factor psychology journals from the webpage of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Library – I used all of the journals listed there for our analysis. Why we used this list, and what’s the problem with using impact factor as the judge of quality, you can read in the post where I first implemented this list for a similar analysis.


The results of our simple mining through RoMEO shows a different picture than what we saw when trying to figure out how many of the top psychology journals are gold open access. It seems that self-archiving is a much more widespread option than actual open access journals in top impact factor psychology. When we combine Yellow and Green ranked journals, we get 88% of top 50 IF journals that allow either pre or post-print (in lesser extent post print) self-archiving in various repositories. The picture isn’t, of course, simple as this figure. Some require embargo periods, some allow archiving only on personal or institutional websites – and there are many other caveats used on how, when and where you are allowed to archive.

Figure 1. Self-archiving policies of psychology journals in Top 50 IF list

Also, the Yellow label means that the publisher only allows archiving pre-prints. As explained in the RoMEO FAQ, this means they only allow archiving pre-refereeing versions of the manuscript. Any changes made to the manuscript throughout the review process aren’t available for archiving (as if the publishers pay the reviewers to make the changes!).

Out of the four journals that were ranked as White by RoMEO, one is actually a gold open access journal – Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience published by the Canadian Medical Association. The single journal whose policies we could not find in RoMEO is World Psychiatry published by the World Psychiatric Association – in our last post on the 50 IF list, we tentatively categorized this journal as gold open access too.

The one journal marked as Blue is Trends in Cognitive Science published by Elsevier. You might expect yet another diatribe ostracizing Elsevier as the monopolistic publisher as is popular in scholarly circles after the (in)famous Elsevier boycott. But we won’t do that, because there is no basis for it in this analysis. On the contrary. We found 11 Elsevier journals in the list. Other than the previously mentioned Trends in Cognitive Science, the other 10 Elsevier journals are all labeled Green by RoMEO. Apparently, the publisher recognized the usefulness of self-archiving and instituted it in their journals. Kudos for Elsevier.

APA, as the publisher with most journals in the top 50 IF list, is also quite enlightened as far as self-archiving goes. All of the journals published by APA in this list are marked as Green, except for Personality and Social Psychology Review which is categorized as Yellow.


The self-archiving reality of top ranked journals in psychology is a much prettier picture than when we look at it through the gold open access prism. The publishers apparently recognized the need and the good sides of allowing self-archiving and do allow it to some extent – some greater, some smaller — but most in some way. The question that remains is – do the scholars getting published in these journals actually use these opportunities to maximize the impact of their research? This is not a question for the publishers or the journals. This is a question for the academic community. The awareness, the advantage and the policies mandating self-archiving are pivotal in open access to scientific literature. From my experience, from a scientifically peripheral country, scholars often aren’t aware of the possibility of self-archiving. They are unsure of how to do it, where to do it, when to do it or even if they can do it – fearing copyright infringement and various other ‘threats’. This, in large part, is a problem of awareness than anything else.

So, spread the word to your professors. Discuss this at your campuses, with your colleagues and learn about self-archiving.

It’s good for science, you know?


Ivan Flis is a graduate student of psychology at the Center for Croatian Studies at the University of Zagreb, Croatia. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of European Psychology Students (JEPS) and the Chair of the Right to Research Coalition Coordinating Committee for Africa, Europe and Middle East.

Ivan Flis

Ivan Flis is a PhD student in History and Philosophy of Science at the Descartes Centre, Utrecht University; and has a degree in psychology from the University of Zagreb, Croatia. His research focuses on quantitative methodology in psychology, its history and application, and its relation to theory construction in psychological research. He had been an editor of JEPS for three years in the previous mandates.

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