Speeding up research communication: the actions of SciELO

By Abel L. Packer, Solange Santos, Denise Peres Sales and Eliana Salgado

Image: SciELO.

Image: SciELO.

One of the most remarkable advances that have occurred in scholarly communication is the individualized publication of articles, either through journals that offer the articles as soon as they are approved and edited, avoiding waiting for the composition of a new issue, or through preprint repositories.

The SciELO Program aligns to this trend of accelerated publication as one of the key enhancements of the journals it indexes and publishes. The expectation is that most SciELO journals will adopt the publication of individual articles in the forthcoming two years.

Along with the publication of the articles individually, SciELO promotes fast communication of research by increasing the frequency of publication of issues. Thus, from 2016, the biannual publication is no longer accepted and journals published every four months are only accepted in the areas of Humanities, Applied Social Sciences and Language, Literature and Arts.

Publication of individual papers in journals

Individualized publication of articles is establishing as a trend in the international scholarly communication. It is performed in three different modalities. Two of them are conducted directly by the journal after the article’s approval and editing. The other is via preprint repositories. The publication in the author’s own website shall not be considered here.

The oldest form used by journals is the anticipated online publication of the article before printing the issue on paper, which was identified in the PubMed database as ePub document ahead of print (aop). Disregarding the printed version, the designation nowadays applies to the publication of the article prior to its insertion into a regular issue, i.e., there is a temporary publication without identification of issue and volume, followed by final publication, sometime later, with composition and pagination adjustments at the time of inserting the article into the corresponding issue and volume. There are, thus, two publications of the same article. Much of the international reference journals publish articles in advance. PNAS, for example, publishes daily articles in the ‘Early Section’ and weekly brings together articles on a regular issue. In the SciELO Brazil collection, the ahead of print publication modality is available since 2006 and is adopted by 65 journals in 2016.

In a most recent modality, called continuous, individual publication is final and the article is given a number, usually sequential, which locates it in a specific issue and volume. In continuous publication, the organization of articles in issues is optional, i.e., the journal operates with a single volume, which normally coincides with the calendar year. This modality became popular a few years ago by ‘megajournals’ or open access platforms, especially PLoS One, BioMed Central, Scientific Reports, and Philosophers’ Imprint, among others. The most important change from the traditional serial publication is the location of the article in the journal collection, which is made by a number instead of the combination of first and last pages. In the SciELO Brazil collection it was launched experimentally in 2015 and it has already been adopted in early 2016 by 12 journals.

Publication of individual papers in SciELO journals

The SciELO journals may adopt publication of individual articles in the continuous or advanced modality at any time. The first step is to communicate with the SciELO Production Unit and report on the modality to be adopted.

In case of continuous publication, which is strongly recommended by SciELO, three other decisions should be made:

  • Articles will be arranged in issues and volumes or only volumes?
  • Articles will be classified by sections in the summary?
  • Which is the articles’ identification system?

As we saw earlier, the article number replaces initial and final pages in the location and citation of the article. At the SciELO publishing system the article number is called eLocation (Electronic Location Identifier) following the NISO Journal Article Tag Suite (JATS) standard adopted by SciELO.

Continuous publication is recommended by SciELO due to the following operational advantages:

  • Fast and definitive communication of research results, which generally favors all actors involved in research and its communication.
  • Indexing of articles in bibliographic databases where the journal is indexed, especially Google Scholar, PubMed, SciELO, Scopus and WoS;
  • Journals no longer accumulate the already approved articles waiting for the composition and layout of the next issue;
  • One can keep the traditional structure of volume and issues or simplify it with serialization only by volumes.
  • In case of keeping the structure of issues and volumes one can feed multiple numbers simultaneously, which is particularly useful for sections or thematic numbers and/or dossiers;
  • One can keep the feeding by sections in both the structure of issues and volumes as volumes only.

Although the publication in the modality ahead of print is the oldest form of publication of individual articles, it has the disadvantage of double publication: the provisional and final. Despite the provisional version is replaced by the definitive one, it can also be kept in other repositories or online publications. Although they are indexed by Google Scholar, SciELO and PubMed, the ahead of print articles are not considered for WoS and Scopus.

Increase of frequency and anticipated publication of issues

Besides the individual publication of articles, SciELO is promoting the reduction of the gap between the journals issues as a means to accelerate research communication. This is an orientation of SciELO since its inception, when the first admission and permanence criteria excluded indexing of annual volumes. From 2016 on, biannual publication also ceased to be accepted for indexing.

Table 1 shows the frequency distribution of SciELO journals in 2015 and the minimum and recommended periodicity from 2016.

As one can see, 37 journals (13% of all indexed journals) still publish at intervals above those required by SciELO. The area of Humanities and Language, Literature and Arts are the areas which, respectively, have the highest number (16) and the highest percentage (54%) of journals that should adjust their periodicity. In Table 1 there were not considered 6 of 282 journals indexed in March 2016 because they belong to three or more thematic areas and are treated individually.

Indexed journals that are struggling to meet the minimum periodicity required by SciELO, may, as an alternative, adopt continuous publication from 2016, preferably with no issue organization for those who publish only online versions. The modality is recommended for all thematic areas regardless the periodicity.

However, journals that meet the minimum periodicity required by SciELO and continue with the traditional serial publication, without adopting advanced or continuous publication, formal acceleration of communication occurs with the early publication of new issues or publication at the beginning of the corresponding period. For instance, the first number of 2016 is published in 2015 or in early January 2016. In the current scenario, delays are no longer acceptable in the publication of issues.

Publication of individual papers in preprints

Preprint repositories allow authors to deposit their articles in compliance with the minimum criteria for acceptance, which generally do not include peer review as a condition for publication.

Among the repositories of preprints, arXiv is the oldest, the most important and well known. In operation since 1991 and originally dedicated to the area of high-energy physics, arXiv currently accepts the deposit of articles from various fields of physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, financial mathematics and statistics. Other thematic areas rely or should rely in the future with reference preprint repositories to research and journals communities as arXiv. In the first semester of 2016 two important events in the US discuss the current status and future of scholarly communication and intend to leverage highly innovative movements regarding the use of preprint repositories. The first, called Accelerating Science and Publication in Biology (ASAPbio), held in mid-February 2016, aims to establish a repository of biomedical research results. The other, led by the Open Scholarship Initiative collaboration (OSI2016), proposes the creation of a global repository of all areas of scientific knowledge.

The publication of articles in preprint repositories is followed, in most cases, by submission to a journal. However, although it is common that physics journals accept submissions of articles deposited previously in arXiv, this policy has been slowly adopted in other areas. Associated with fast track publication, the advantage for authors in depositing their articles as preprints is the establishment of priority over findings.

SciELO stimulates the journals indexed in the collection to follow international reference journals in their respective areas regarding policies on submissions and acceptance of articles preprints.

Disintermediation and fewer barriers

Innovations related to the publication of individual articles and the early publication of the regular issues meet the expectations of researchers, policy makers and users of scientific information that new research, essays and opinions come to light as soon as possible. It also corresponds to the advancement of disintermediation that characterizes contemporary communication on the Web.

The central motivation lies in author-reader relationship. On the one hand, authors want to see their research published as soon as possible, and on the other hand, users of scientific information have the expectation that a search on Google or another engine bring them directly to article’s full texts, preferably in open access.

It is about, therefore, to minimize or even eliminate the barriers that traditional serial edition of journals represent to prompt publication of articles. The deferred publication of an already approved article can limit and even eliminate its novelty potential, and may also reduce the exposure time of research in bibliometric indicators calculation windows based on downloads or received citations. The deferred publication also affects the basis of research grants proposals especially of young researchers, as well as research progress reports that depend on proof of results publication in indexed journals.


Many of the features and conventions that persist in the publication of journals result from restrictions based on the old print publication, restrictions that do not apply or are irrelevant in the online digital media. Among them, the most prominent is the gathering of articles in the organization and layout of issues. It has been long ago that search and access to scientific articles texts is detached from its location in the grids of issues and volumes of journals.

The publication of research results once formulated in articles, data and other types of documents is one of the main characteristics of the open science movement. In this post we highlighted SciELO positions and recommendations to speed up publication of articles by the journals it indexes aligned with the open science movement.

However, besides the continuous publication of articles, other improvements shall occur in policies, management and editorial practices of journals and the SciELO program to accelerate the communication of articles. Among them, the most important is to overcome the difficulties that result in slow evaluation processes of manuscripts and improvement of transparency the way these processes are carried out. SciELO journals should adopt from 2016 on, online manuscripts management systems that are able to register the workflow as an essential improvement to speed up the publication process. It is also important to rely on the collaboration of authors regarding the careful preparation of manuscripts meeting the instructions to authors of the journal in which they intend to publish in order to avoid rejection due to non-compliance of formal requirements. In this sense, the journals should provide checklists that are applied upon receiving a manuscript.

We know that overcoming the factors that delay and make publication of journals costly require the collaboration of different actors of scholarly communication. In this sense, SciELO is committed to the promotion and implementation of innovations and improvements that minimize barriers in the fast communication of research.


CIRASELLA, J and BOWDOIN, S. Just Roll with It? Rolling Volumes vs. Discrete Issues in Open Access Library and Information Science Journals. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication. 2013, vol. 1, nº 4. pp. eP1086. DOI: 10.7710/2162-3309.1086.

Critérios SciELO Brasil: critérios, políticas e procedimentos para admissão e permanência de periódicos científicos na Coleção SciELO Brasil. SciELO Brasil. 2014. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/avaliacao/20141003NovosCriterios_SciELO_Brasil.pdf

JATS: Journal Article Tag Suite. ANSI/NISO Z39.96-2012. Available from: http://jats.niso.org/

SciELO Publishing Schema – Guia de uso dos elementos e atributos para documentos em XML. SciELO. Available from: http://docs.scielo.org/projects/scielo-publishing-schema/pt_BR/1.3-branch/

VALE, R.D. Accelerating scientific publication in biology. PNAS. 2015, vol. 112, nº 44, pp. 13439–13446. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1511912112.

External links


ASAPbio – <http://asapbio.org/>

BioMed Central – <https://www.biomedcentral.com/>

Open Scholarship Initiative – <http://osinitiative.org/2016-agenda/>

Philosophers’ Imprint – <http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=phimp;cc=phimp;rgn=main;page=browse>

PLoS – <www.plosone.org />


Translated from the original in portuguese by Lilian Nassi-Calò.


Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

PACKER, A., et al. Speeding up research communication: the actions of SciELO [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2016 [viewed ]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2016/03/10/speeding-up-research-communication-the-actions-of-scielo/


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