Journal Article Versions: SAGE is Driving Transparency and Best Practices in Online Publishing

From Lettie Conrad

The concept of a “version of record” may be an artifact from the days when publishing relied on printed distribution. Yet we still find value in the notion of an unvarying record of scholarly discourse, even in an age of reliance upon digital journal publishing practices. And safeguarding the online versions of journals is a key service of publishers, like SAGE.

In a 2010 NISO survey, a strong majority (92% of respondents) support establishing new standards that provide research communities with clarity as to the status an article as it moves it way through the publication lifecycle. SAGE is heading such industry feedback with the development of a new feature to enhance the clarity of article versions and the online publication dates for manuscripts hosted on SAGE Journals Online (SJO).


We have chosen to adopt the terms recommended by a joint working group of NISO and ALPSP representatives in 2008. We have adapted these terms to fit our publishing policies and believe the following article versions will best support our readers and journal partners:

  1. Accepted Manuscripts: These are articles published within the OnlineFirst program on SAGE Journals Online upon peer review acceptance for publication and before copyediting, typesetting, and other value added by SAGE.
  2. Proof: These are articles published within the OnlineFirst program on SAGE Journals Online as “in-press article” that have completed most steps of the publication process. This version is the fully copy-edited manuscript, representing changes from Accepted Manuscript that constitutes the first official publication of an article.
  3. Version of record:  This is the fixed version of a journal article that has been published by SAGE in a formal volume / issue format. Typically, very little is changed from the Proof version, as both are considered official publication events.

The next major hurdle in the evolution of journal article versioning is industry acceptance of post-publication corrections and enhanced versions of record. Many publishers either do not make any changes to the version of record or display non-standard indicators when such changes occur. SAGE is prepared to contribute to shared efforts toward clear and acceptable practices for iterations beyond the version of record. We are prepared to launch another wave of production and platform enhancements to our journals publishing program that allow clear indications of changes to an article’s version of record. We look forward to partnering with other members of the scholarly community to examine the conceptual and logistical implications of this change within to all aspects of our industry.

Tell us what you think about the new development of the new SAGE journal article version feature – please contact Lettie Conrad, [email protected].

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