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(written by Richard T. Snodgrass, December 2002)
About eighteen months ago the ACM Publications Board approved a sweeping policy, termed the "Rights and Responsibilities in ACM Publishing" summarizing the rights and responsibilities of readers, authors, reviewers, editors, program chairs and committees, and libraries vis-a-vis journals, transactions, magazines, conference proceedings, and SIG newsletters published by ACM.
This policy document contains a mixture of current practice and goals for the near future. I and the TODS Editorial Board take these stated rights very seriously and have been working for over a year on developing mechanisms, policies, and procedures to ensure each of these rights. As a result of these efforts, TODS is the first ACM transactions to fully implement all 42 (!) rights listed here.
I'll discuss the steps we have and are taking. (I'll not get into rights of Editorial Board members, except to state that those rights have also been fully implemented.)
Included are several new policies that you as a prospective author or reviewer may appreciate.
Quotations from the ACM Rights and Responsibilities document are given in italics.
Readers can expect ACM to
Publish on time with the printed and Digital Library versions available the first day of the issue month
Readers know that for several years each issue of TODS has come out months after its cover date. As I discussed in my September 2001 editorial, there were two primary underlying causes: an inadequate backlog and slow production. I'm pleased to report that both problems have been solved, and that the December 2002 issue will be available in print and in the digital library on December 1, 2002. In fact, articles are placed on the TODS web site as soon as they are accepted. The December articles have been present there since September.
The TODS Editorial Board does its part through rigorous reviewing of submitted manuscripts, and ACM publication staff do their part through careful copy-editing and close interaction with authors (see also the ACM guidelines on publication quality).
Ensure that the electronic and printed version of an article match within the limits of the style guidelines of each format
Starting a few issues ago, the electronic and printed versions of each TODS article were and continue to be generated from the same LaTeX source, to ensure that the contents match.
Ensure that journal, transactions, and magazine articles are professionally copy-edited
This is done for every TODS article.
Ensure consistent formatting of articles in each publication
Authors of accepted manuscripts are provided with style files to ensure consistent formatting. The final version the authors provide is identical to that which appears, down even to the fonts employed, modulo subsequent copy editing.
Make publications available at low cost to individual subscribers, for the current year and for all previous years
TODS is available to individual subscribers for $39 per year (four issues) for ACM Members, $34 per year for ACM Student Members, and $164 for nonmembers. An electronic subscription is $31 for members, $27 for student members, and $131 for non-members. A combined print and online subscription is $47 for ACM Members, $41 for ACM Student Members, and $197 for nonmembers. The online subscription includes all previous years: the ACM Digital Library contains all issues back to issue 1 of volume 1, published in March 1976.
Take into account the needs of readers in economically emerging countries and in economically undeveloped countries
Like all ACM publications, TODS has a sliding subscription rate for such readers.
Enable fast access to the electronic version of each article, throughout the world
ACM has invested considerable funds so that all readers have fast access.
Permit low cost purchasing of individual copies of articles (printed or electronic version).
Single print copies are $18 each to ACM members and $40 to nonmembers; single electronic copies are $5 and $10, respectively.
The policy partitions the right of authors into three parts, corresponding to the phases a submitted paper goes through: reviewing, processing of accepted works, and dissemination.
When an author makes a submission, a confidential review process is initiated. The aim of the review process is to make an appropriate and timely decision on whether a submission should be published. ... Thus authors can expect ACM to
Keep them informed on the status of their submission
Currently communication of progress of the review of a submission is handled via email from the Associate Editor handling the submission.
TODS is implementing an online manuscript tracking system that will afford authors more information on the status of the processing of manuscripts they have submitted.
Use impartial reviewers
This has been a policy of TODS from the beginning.
Issue timely review and clear feedback
Reducing the turn-around time for submitted manuscripts has been a priority. For all manuscripts submitted between July 1, 2001 and March 30, 2002 (the latest date for which statistics are available, as I write this on October 2, 2002), the average time required to process a manuscript, from submission to editorial decision, is 4.3 months. This interval has been quite constant over the past six months or so.
Also of interest is the maximum turn-around time. This value had jumped around a lot, but is now settling down. We are committed to bounding the maximum turn-around time to 6 months.
This has also been a policy of TODS from the beginning.
Once a submission has been accepted, authors can expect ACM to publish the work in a timely and professional manner. Authors can expect to have approval of all changes to the work. In addition, ACM will strive to not cause authors to perform unnecessary work .... Thus authors can expect ACM to
Provide reasonable time to fix galleys for journal, transactions, and magazine articles
TODS keeps authors abreast of where their paper is in the production process, and gives authors at least a week to check proofs.
Note all copy-editing changes for journals and transactions
The production process for TODS provides a marked-up copy of the original draft, along with the updated copy, so that authors know exactly what changes were made to their paper.
Seek author approval of the final copy for journal, transactions, and newsletter articles
This has been a policy of TODS at least with the new production process instituted several months ago.
Not introduce errors in the production process
Now that TODS uses LaTeX (the formatter of choice for most submissions) internally in its production process, the number of errors introduced has gone down significantly, as most papers need not be converted.
Add no material without the corresponding author's approval
ACM always checks with authors on copy-editing changes to TODS articles.
Be financially responsible for its own internal preparation costs
The subscription rate for TODS has been kept low by careful selection of vendors by the ACM publications staff.
Ensure metadata accuracy for journal, transactions, and magazine articles.
ACM goes to great lengths to ensure that the metadata in its Digital Library is accurate.
Publication is only a part of the broader goal of disseminating ideas and results. Authors can expect ACM to contribute to this wider goal, and in particular to encourage dissemination in multiple forums. ... Thus authors can expect ACM to
The ACM Copyright Policy is quite explicit (and author-friendly) on this point: "As part of their retained rights, authors may revise their ACM-copyrighted work and post the new version on non-ACM servers (personal, employer, or CoRR.)"
The copyright policy is also explicit on this point. "Authors may post an author-version of their own ACM-copyrighted work on a personal server or on a server belonging to their employer, but they may not post a copy of the definitive version that they downloaded from ACM's Digital Library."
This holds for all ACM publications.
This holds for all ACM publications.
TODS is the first database journal, the first ACM journal, and indeed the first journal that I am aware of, that publishes its turn-around performance for all to see.
The current backlog of articles is also maintained (here). Authors can judge for themselves how responsive the journal is.
ACM recognizes that the quality of a refereed publication rests primarily on the impartial judgment of their volunteer reviewers. ... Thus reviewers can expect ACM to
This has been TODS policy from the beginning.
Reviewers are always asked first if they would be willing to review a paper.
There is a stated conflict of interest policy on the TODS web site. This policy is consistent with general ACM guidelines.
The TODS Editorial Board very carefully chooses reviewers for submitted manuscripts.
TODS strives to not overload referees. Specifically, TODS now has an explicit policy that referees will be expected to review at most one TODS paper in any twelve-month period.
There are some provisos and exceptions to this policies. Informal reviews and reviews of revised manuscripts can be quicker than two months. Revised papers should be reviewed by the same referees, and this review will probably occur within the twelve months, but that will just extend the required interval before the next review. And referees are welcome to volunteer for more reviewing than the maximum of one formal review per year, if they wish.
The TODS Editorial Board policy is explicit on this right.
TODS now has an explicit policy to allow at least two months for an initial formal review.
TODS has procedures in place to ensure that delays do not occur in the first place.
The Editorial Board routinely desk rejects submissions that are inappropriate or that do not satisfy stated requirements.
TODS periodically publishes the collected names of reviewers. TODS employs single-blind reviewing. The identity of the reviewers of a manuscript will never be revealed to the authors or to the other reviewers.
It is explicit TODS policy that the author-visible portion of reviews as well as the final editorial decision be provided to the reviewers once an editorial decision has been made.
Other than those just listed, no one else will be shown the reviews.
This holds for all ACM publications.
In addition to reader rights, libraries can expect ACM to
ACM has very reasonable institutional subscription rates, both for individual journals and for the ACM Digital Library as a whole. These rates are on a sliding scale.
The effort that has gone into providing fast access to individual subscribers also benefits patrons of libraries that have electronic subscriptions.
This provides assurance that libraries will always have access to the electronic content that they subscribed to.
This has always been ACM policy.
This has always been ACM policy.
Richard T. Snodgrass, "Progress on ACM's Becoming the Preferred Publisher," Communications of the ACM, 45(2):97-98, February, 2002.