In an effort to assure that psychology's digital scholarly record matches its printed record, APA is leading an initiative to change how the scholarly publishing industry handles reproduction permissions and the conditions under which they are allowed.

Though scholarly publishers are operating in an electronic era, the way they grant each other permission to republish pieces of information from each others' journals in new articles operates under the conditions of the print-only world, says Gary VandenBos, PhD, APA publisher.

Many publishers grant permission to republish a table or figure in a new publication for only the print version. Therefore, though the digital version is rapidly becoming the "copy of record," the digital version is often not the same as the print copy.

"It is a major disservice to the advancement of science for the digital versions to be an inadequate and different version from the printed version," says VandenBos.

That's why APA has substantially revised its permissions policy, allowing broad access to its research material. Under the new policy, authors may automatically reuse small excerpts from APA journals and books. By eliminating-in most cases-the need for formal written requests, APA hopes to save authors time and resources while setting a standard for open access in the electronic age.

In the past, authors who wanted to use any figures or text from APA studies had to seek permission, generating huge amounts of paperwork. Moreover, the permission granted often did not include electronic rights. APA recognized that electronic versions are increasingly the "article of record," making it essential that APA change its policy to allow electronic versions to also include reprinted information, says Linda Beebe, senior director of APA's PsycINFO database.

The new policy grants free reuse permission for both print and electronic versions on a limited basis. Authors can reprint small text excerpts, three figures or tables from a study or book chapter, and five figures or tables from a whole book at no cost. APA charges fees for larger amounts. Authors can reuse the free material without requesting formal permission from APA, but anyone who wishes to reuse material must seek permission from the original author or authors.

APA intends to use its policy to influence other publishers to adopt similar practices. Publishers who do not grant easy and open access to APA authors will not be eligible for automatic access and must make a formal request. The hope is that, by encouraging other publishers adopt similar policies, APA will assure that electronic journal and book versions from all publishers match the print versions while eliminating the time-consuming need to track permissions for every illustration or text excerpt.

By expediting the permissions process without comprising the rights of authors, APA hopes to make publishing in its journals and books as rewarding an experience as possible, says Susan Harris, senior director of APA's journals program.

"What APA is doing is a big deal," adds VandenBos. "We are attempting to change the whole approach of the scholarly publishing community on this matter, and we believe we must model the new approach by doing it ourselves."

Further Reading

See the full permissions policy at About APA.