Re: Nature's vs. Science's Embargo Policy

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 29 Jan 2000 22:03:41 +0000

On Sat, 29 Jan 2000, Diana Deutsch wrote:

> I just noticed that you listed Nature as a journal that does not have
> embargo policies. However, they write in their Instructions to
> Contributors that authors need to state with their submissions that the
> work they report has not been disseminated in any way (for example, no
> press releases). Recently I decided not to submit a recent finding to
> Nature for publication, because the work had received considerable media
> attention following a talk I gave at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of
> America, and a lay-language version that the ASA (indeed a branch of the
> enlightened AIP) posted for this meeting.
> I'd be grateful if you had any information about
> Nature's 'real' policy on this.

It seems to me that based on Nature's own announced Embargo Policy
<>, you had no reason not
to submit it to Nature anyway:

     Nature does not wish to hinder communication between scientists.
     For that reason, different embargo guidelines apply to work that
     has been discussed at a conference or displayed on a preprint
     server and picked up by the media as a result. (Neither
     conferences nor preprint servers constitute prior publication.)

     Our guidelines for authors and potential authors in such
     circumstances are clear-cut in principle: communicate with other
     researchers as much as you wish, but do not encourage premature
     publication by discussion with the press (beyond your formal
     presentation, if at a conference).

Science's policy is much more regressive insofar as online self-archiving
of preprints is concerned, and that difference is crucial here:

     Science will not consider any paper or component of a paper that
     has been published or is under consideration for publication
     elsewhere. Distribution on the Internet may be considered
     previously published material and may compromise the originality
     of the paper as a submission to Science.

However, they too are reasonable when it comes to inadvertent press
coverage of a conference by the media.

     In addition, the main findings of a paper should not have been
     reported in the mass media. Authors are, however, permitted to
     present their data at open meetings but should not overtly seek
     media attention. Specifically, authors should decline
     participation in news briefings or coverage in press releases and
     should refrain from giving interviews or copies of the figures or
     data from their presentation or from the manuscript to any
     reporter unless the reporter agrees to abide by Science's press
     embargo. If a reporter attends an author's session at a meeting
     and writes a story based only on the presentation, such coverage
     will not affect Science's consideration of the author's paper.

I might add that I see nothing objectionable about Nature and
Science's press embargos: Authors should not seek press coverage for
unrefereed findings. But there is zero justification for trying to
prevent the online self-archiving of unrefereed preprints for
fellow-researchers. (And, a fortiori, less than zero justification for
trying to prevent the online self-archiving of REFEREED reprints, which
Science also does. I am not sure what Nature's current policy is on

Stevan Harnad
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 23-80 592-582
Computer Science fax: +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton

NOTE: A complete archive of this ongoing discussion of "Freeing the
Refereed Journal Literature Through Online Self-Archiving" is available
at the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99):
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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