STM Consultation on Article Sharing


To gain a better understanding of the current landscape of article sharing through scholarly collaboration networks and sites, STM conducted an open consultation across the scholarly community in early 2015. The aim of this consultation was to facilitate discussion by all stakeholders in order to establish a core set of principles that clarify how, where and what content should be shared using these networks and sites, and to improve this experience for all. Our hope for this initiative is for publishers and scholarly collaboration networks to work together to facilitate sharing, which benefits researchers, institutions, and society as a whole.


Voluntary principles for article sharing on scholarly collaboration networks

As a starting point for the consultation process, STM assembled a working group on Scholarly Collaboration Networks (SCNs). This group produced a draft set of ‘voluntary principles for article sharing on scholarly collaboration networks’ and posted it for public comment in February 2015. Based on the community’s constructive feedback, the working group has revised the voluntary principles:

The SCN working group also produced an explanation of the changes made to the draft voluntary principles based on the consultation feedback.

Stakeholders are invited to formally show their support for the revised voluntary principles by becoming an official endorser of document. To add your endorsement please email the name of your organisation to


Next Steps

  • Publisher posting policy In response to this initiative, several publishers (e.g. NPG, Wiley, Elsevier) have issued, or are in the process of issuing, policies that address posting via SCN’s. More information about these policies will be posted shortly.
  • Article tagging project To support the implementation of the principles a sub-working group is tasked with demonstrating a technical solution based on tagging XML metadata in scholarly articles. Project progress update.
  • The SCN working group is continuing to reach out across the scholarly community for wider involvement in its ongoing activities. If you wish to comment on the work of the group/receive updates on progress, please email
  • Updates on progress will continually be posted on this page


Representatives from the following organizations were involved in the drafting of the initial voluntary principles:

  • AAAS
  • American Chemical Society
  • American Institute of Physics
  • AIP Publishing
  • Digital Science
  • Elsevier
  • IEEE
  • John Wiley & Sons
  • Nature Publishing Group
  • Springer Science+Business Media
  • Taylor & Francis Group


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are Scholarly Collaboration Networks (SCNs)?

SCNs are platforms that allow researchers to develop and maintain professional relationships. SCNs also enable researchers to share information and ideas, participate in discussions and embark on collaborations. Some networks do not facilitate possibilities for social interactions, but do enable collaboration through article sharing.

Some examples of SCNs that offer networking functionalities include, Colwiz, LabArchives, Mendeley, ResearchGate, Zotero, the Social Science Research Network, and more broadly, LinkedIn.

Some examples of SCNs that currently do not offer networking functionalities include Endnote, Papers, and ReadCube.

  1. Why has STM developed a set of voluntary principles now?

The ways by which scholarly information is delivered and consumed is rapidly evolving. As the use of sharing networks grows, the ambiguity over how to access, share and use journal articles on platforms and tools like SCNs has become apparent. Although some publishers have previously made independent statements about SCNs, STM believes the best approach to finding common ground on this issue is through a wide and far-reaching consultative process. As all parties across the community – researchers, libraries, SCNs and publishers alike – seek clarity on these issues, we think the time has come to start this type of inclusive dialogue in order to form a springboard for further progress. 

  1. Why did STM issue a consultation?

STM sought to gain a better understanding of the current landscape of article sharing through scholarly collaboration networks and sites. The goal of the consultation was to obtain feedback on the draft voluntary principles and content sharing in general from the broader scholarly community.

  1.  Who do these principles apply to?

The voluntary principles are designed to address issues specifically around the sharing of subscription and/or licensed content. As such, their application is primarily intended to be for SCN’s and  publishers on behalf of the research community they service. Whilst many of the points contained can be considered as ‘best practice’, they were not developed to cover the archiving work of institutional repositories.

  1. Are the voluntary principles intended to override any pre-existing agreements?

These principles were crafted to cover a wide range of academic research activities which typically fall under a range of different licences and policies. The principles do not override any existing agreements made between publishers and institutions or directly with authors. Likewise the principles do not override any explicit licence terms.

  1. How should usage be monitored to ensure effective privacy?

The voluntary principles contain language acknowledging existing security laws and requirements, and therefore usage and activity data must be treated accordingly. This includes ensuring that usage monitoring does not contain any personal information, and that SCN platforms likewise should follow existing industry standards for measurement and reporting.