When you write a paper, you typically pursue several goals. One is to publish it in a good journal in order to get recognition for your work. The other is to get read and have an impact (and get citations). While publishing in a good journal may help you achieve the second goal, this is not necessarily so as the access to most journal articles is restricted by subscriptions. One way around this is to make some version of your work available in other ways. This is referred to as self-archiving.
This can be done in several ways, greatly helped by the availability of the Internet:
- Have a copy on your web page.
- Have a copy in your local working paper series.
- Have a copy in your institutional repository, usually managed by the library.
- Host a copy elsewhere.
The first solution is clearly not efficient, as people would only find your work there by chance. This would also be the case for the other solutions, but there are good ways to make such works more widely available, RePEc being a major one. Indeed, once a working paper series is indexed in RePEc, it will be available in thematic search engines dedicated to Economics (EconPapers and IDEAS), disseminated through mailing lists and RSS (NEP) and further pushed to other indexers (Econlit, Google Scholar, OAISTER), etc.). But for this to happen, the working paper series would need to be indexed in RePEc (instructions). The same applies to an institutional repository (see more about that).
If these options are not available, the paper can be hosted elsewhere. For RePEc, the Munich Personal RePEc Archive is ready to accept uploads, and has in a couple of years accepted more 8000 papers, including quite a few older ones that researchers wanted to make available to anyone. Another option is SSRN, but this archive does not participate in RePEc.
Regarding self-archiving, the most frequent asked questions is: am I violating a copyright when uploading somewhere a working paper? The short answer is that in the vast majority of cases, no copyright that you may have signed away to a publisher is violated by uploading a pre-print, i.e., a previous version of your work. In many cases, it is sufficient that the working paper simply does not have the published layout, or that it not be the final version. Many publishers even allow post-prints, that is, uploads of final versions onto institutional repositories, as these are more and more mandated by institutions and sponsors. To check what the policy of each publisher is, consult SHERPA/RoMEO. Only in very rare cases does a working paper need to be withdrawn once published in a journal.
Note that when both a self-archived and a published version of a paper are listed in RePEc with the same title, and both are present in an author’s profile, RePEc will link between them. This allows the reader to find where a working paper was ultimately published, or to read a paper hidden behind a journal’s subscription wall. Thus authors: never remove from your profile works that you have authored.
Finally, for more about self-archiving, check out the Self-Archiving FAQ hosted by e-prints.