Re: Copyright, Embargo, and the Ingelfinger Rule

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 25 May 2001 10:21:12 +0100

On Fri, 25 May 2001, Tabah Albert wrote:

> I am wondering whether you know of any physics journal that imposes the
> Ingelfinger rule. I mean, aside from Science or Nature, such as
> Physical Review Letters, etc.

I hope others in this Forum will be able to reply. All I know is that
the APS journals definitely do NOT impose the Ingelfinger Rule. Indeed,
APS has the most enlightened and advanced copyright policy of any
established refereed journal today (i.e., other than the newest free
online-only journals).

Science and Nature should not be tarred with the same brush, however.
Nature's current embargo policy is more advanced and enlightened than
Science's regarding the Ingelfinger Rule (although Ellis Rubinstein of
Science magazine did indicate informally at a meeting last year that
Science would probably soon be following suit).

   Tenth International Conference of Science Editors, Rio de Janeiro,
   Brazil August 27-30, 2000

I append at the end of this message a prior discussion of this topic on
this list.

See also:

> I have been doing some thinking about the contradiction between the
> visibility obtained from posting preprints on the web and the
> imposition of the Ingelfinger rule by high quality journals and whether
> the rule that is supposed to ensure high quality and the citations that
> come with it does not punish those who try to obtain visibility and
> citations prior to the formal publication of their works.

You are quite right. It does. And it needn't. And there is no
justification for it. And the Ingelfinger Rule can and should be ignored
by authors. (Unlike copyright restrictions, which can be successfully
circumvented legally by give-away authors, the Ingelfinger Rule is not
even a legal matter but merely an arbitrary journal policy, like
declining to publish papers by authors who have maternal relatives who
are blue-eyed...)

    Harnad, S. (2000) Ingelfinger Over-Ruled: The Role of the Web in
    the Future of Refereed Medical Journal Publishing. Lancet
    Perspectives 256 (December Supplement): s16.

    Harnad, S. (2000) E-Knowledge: Freeing the Refereed Journal Corpus
    Online. Computer Law & Security Report 16(2) 78-87. [Rebuttal to
    Bloom Editorial in Science and Relman Editorial in New England
    Journal of Medicine]

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 the ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature online is available at the
American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01):

You may join the list at the site above.

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Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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