OBJECTIVES: To evaluate how acceptable authors find the BMJ's current practice of publishing short versions of research articles in the paper journal and a longer version on the web and to determine authors' attitudes towards publishing only abstracts in the paper journal and publishing unedited versions on bmj.com once papers have been accepted for publication. DESIGN: Two cross sectional surveys. SETTING: General medical journal. PARTICIPANTS: Survey 1: corresponding authors of a consecutive sample of published BMJ research articles that had undergone the ELPS (electronic long, paper short) process. Survey 2: corresponding authors of consecutive research articles submitted to BMJ. RESULTS: Response rates were 90% (104/115) in survey 1 and 75% (213/283) in survey 2. ELPS is largely acceptable to BMJ authors, but there is some concern that electronic information is not permanent and uncertainty about how versions are referenced. While authors who had experienced ELPS reported some problems with editors shortening papers, most were able to rectify these. Overall, 70% thought that the BMJ should continue to use ELPS; 49% thought that publishing just the abstract in the printed journal with the full version only on bmj.com was unacceptable; and 23% thought it unacceptable to post unedited versions on bmj.com once a paper had been accepted for publication. CONCLUSIONS: It is acceptable to authors to publish short versions of research articles in the printed version of a general medical journal with longer versions on the website. Authors dislike the idea of publishing only abstracts in the printed journal but are in favour of posting accepted articles on the website ahead of the printed version.
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