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My understanding is that the difference between 'was' and 'has been' means that something beginning in the past either ended or has not yet.

My neck was sore yesterday. <- ended at some time

My neck has been sore since yesterday. <- continuing up to the present

How does this apply to the following two sentences:

An earlier version of this chapter has been published as 'Author A., Author B., 2016, ...'

An earlier version of this chapter was published as 'Author A., Author B., 2016, ...'

Which is correct or are they equivalent?

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Both are correct because Publication doesn't end.

So, An earlier version of this chapter was published... indicates that the act of publication occurred at a specific moment in time.

An earlier version of this chapter has been published... indicates that publication occurred and that the chapter is still in the state of being published.

Published is both an act (verb) and a state of being (adjective).

The two forms are largely interchangeable, although you can use one over the other if you wish to emphasize the time of publication or the fact that the information is public.

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