Ten simple ways to share PDFs of your papers #PDFtribute

There is a spreading surge of PDF sharing going on in relation to a tribute to Aaron Swartz who died a few days ago.  For more on Aaron and tributes to him see the collection I am making here: The Tree of Life: RIP: Aaron Swartz.  For more on the PDF sharing see this CNET story for example: Researchers honor Swartz’s memory with PDF protest and http://pdftribute.net.

I should say, sharing your PDFs is not necessarily clearly not enough (the license on the PDF may affect what people can do with them if they feel constrained to follow the law).  It is also critical to think about the level of openness of a paper, but I will save most of the comments on that for another time. What I wanted to do here is point out various ways to share PDFs for people who don’t know how …

UPDATE 1/14: See follow up post 10 things you can do to REALLY support #OpenAccess #PDFTribute

Ten simple ways to share PDFs of your papers.

1. Publish your paper in a fully #openaccess journal (so called GOLD OpenAccess).

Such journals immediately post your paper online for all to see and frequently also post your paper in various formats to repositories like Pubmed Central.  For a list of such journals see the “Directory of Open Access Journals“.  In my opinion, this is the best, and, well, really only viable long term option.  This is what I do for papers from my lab.

2. Publish your paper in a non #openaccess journal that has the option of selecting / paying for #openaccess on a case by case basis. 

Many journals that are not fully #openaccess have the option of paying extra to have your paper be published in an #openaccess manner and then the journal handles not only posting the paper on their site but also frequently depositing in a repository of their or your choosing.  UPDATE: Note – in many cases the licenses used by journals for such one-off “open” publishing are not fully open, despite what some of the journals claim so proceed with caution (see PLOS Biology: Why Full Open Access Matters for example).

3. Publish in a non #openaccess journal that releases papers to a repository after a delay.

Many journals put papers behind a paywall initially but then “free”them up in some way after a set period of delay.  For example a large number in biomedicine will deposit papers to Pubmed Central and also make them freely available on their website after 6 months.  Frequently as with #2 above, the licenses associated with such release of papers are not fully open, but this is a way to have your papers be at least accessible to others after a period of time.

4. Deposit your paper in a preprint server before you submit it for publication.  

For more on preprint servers see

Examples of commonly used preprint servers include

5. Self-archive your PDF in a repository (so called GREEEN OpenAccess).

Various repositories out there exist for posting ones papers.  They work in essence like a preprint server though some people use them more for posting papers after they have been published so I am listing them separately here.  More detail on self-archiving can be found here.  A good source of information about repositories is the Registry of Open Access repositories.  Also the Directory of Open Access repositories.  Another good source is SPARC. Also see here.

One repository commonly used in biomedicine in Pubmed Central.  Alas one is only allowed to post papers there by oneself if the work in the paper was funded by an NIH grant.

Another approach is to use arXiv as a repository where you can post things even after they are published.

Another growing venue for self-archiving is an institutional repository.  As many universities expand their commitment to open access or access university repositories are becoming a source of more and more publications.  Check to see if your institution has a repository and use it.

UPDATE: Note, just depositing your paper in a repository or preprint server does not necessarily mean your paper is open access.  Look in detail at the license and copyright policies of the archives you are considering before using them.

6. Self post your PDFs to a website you control.

If you do not have a personal website and/or do not know how to post a paper to your website, well, you should learn more about this.  A few simple ways to quickly post a PDF for others to get access to include

Create a new blog / website with a system that allows posting PDFs.  There are many many options for this.  One is Posterous.  Another is WordPress.Com.  There are certainly a million other ways.  Upload a PDF to Google Docs and then share the Google Doc link.  Post to Dropbox and share the link there.  Etc. etc. etc.  I ended up using WordPress.Com to create my lab page and to post all my PDFs.

7. Post your PDFs to an online reference collection.

Many systems now exist for collecting and collating and sharing reference collections online.  They include CiteULike, Zotero, and Mendeley.  I particularly like Mendeley right now in part because it makes it very easy to share PDFs privately or publicly.  I for example have posted all my own papers on Mendeley as well as papers of my father’s (for more on this see The Tree of Life: Freeing My Father’s Publications and Free Science, One Paper at a Time | Wired Science | Wired.com).

8. Create an academic profile page and post PDFs there.

Many systems now exist for creating a personal Academic profile of sorts.  One example is Academia.Edu. I have created a page here  Jonathan Eisen | University of California, Davis – Academia.edu although I confess I have not been updating it much.

9. Post to Slideshare.

Though many people end up only posting slideshows to Slideshare, and I use it for that purpose, I have posted many of my papers there as well. See for example:

10. Post to “Data” archives.

There is a large growing collection of places to post “Data” to share it with others.  Some of these sites also allow posting of papers.  For example, I have posted multiple papers to Figshare, a great data sharing site that can be used to post and share just about anything. I have also used Figshare for this (for example – here is my PhD thesis there).

11. Ask a Librarian. (Yes it goes to 11)

Probably the best way to figure out how to better share your PDFs if the options above don’t work for you (or even if they do) is to talk to a librarian.  They are the most knowledgable people in regard to methods and systems and other issues for sharing academic work.

Some related posts from The Tree of Life

Other ideas? Please post in comments …