Re: PostGutenberg Copyrights and Wrongs for Give-Away Research

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 1 Jun 2001 20:35:54 +0100

> > George Lundberg wrote:
> >
> > In the document entitled Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted
> > to Medical Journals published by the International Committee of Medical
> > Journal Editors it is stated that "...electronic publication is
> > publication..." Most such journals do not wish to consider for
> > publication a paper that has already been published. Thus an author can
> > choose the initial method of distribution of written work once only.
> David Goodman <dgoodman_at_PRINCETON.EDU> added:
> This is a very clear statement of exactly the policy that Steve and so
> many of us are urging be changed universally.

First, although it is often ambiguous whether "Steve" refers to me or
to my colleague Steve Hitchcock, let me for my own part repeat, as
indicated in my prior posting, that this statement of George's is not
at all clear, nor does it seem to correspond to the document ("Uniform
Requirements...") from which it is purported to be an excerpt.

To repeat, it is not clear whether George means in this statement to
be endorsing the construal of the Ingelfinger Rule that "rules out"
publishing or refereeing papers that have been self-archived as
preprints online.

Note that the Ingelfinger Rule is NOT a legal matter, and is not a
copyright policy. It is a submission policy.

I agree with David, however, that if George is indeed here endorsing
the Ingelfinger Rule, so construed, then many of us are indeed urging
that this policy be changed. I am also urging that it be ignored, as
it has no legal force, and is unenforceable. In addition, we are all
urging that copyright transfer policy itself be changed. The
Ingelfinger Rule should cease to be invoked to try to prevent the
self-archiving of preprints, and copyright transfer should cease to
be used to make self-archiving of the postprint illegal.

I advocate (1) completely ignoring the Ingelfinger Rule, as having no
legal force whatsoever, and I further advocate (2) legally
circumventing copyright transfer agreements (if one has no choice but
to sign them) that explicitly deny the right to self-archive the
refereed postprint online as follows:

Now I have been quite clear. I am afraid George has neither been
clear, nor has he read carefully what it is that is being said in
this Forum:

On Fri, 1 Jun 2001, George Lundberg wrote:

> i have no doubt that many wish said policy changed for a wide range of
> reasons that have been eloquently (albeit tediously and non-persuasively)
> argued on these pages.

It is not yet clear which policy George is referring to. I shall
assume he means the Ingelfinger Rule.

> I have substantial doubt that the policy needs to be
> changed or that the world would somehow be better if it were changed.

The policy is to proclaim that the journal will neither referee nor
publish submissions that have been self-archived on the Web.

Here is a reason the policy needs to be changed: It arbitrarily denies
researchers the right to disseminate their findings before they are
refereed. I would like to hear the justification for such a rule.

It is not a justification for the rule to say "the rule is in place and
I don't think it will improve things to change it." Here's a reason it
will improve things: the very same reason why people circulate their
pre-refereeing findings to colleagues as paper preprints, why they
report them at scientific meetings, and why physicists have archived
150,000 of them on the Web: Because it accelerates and broadens the
research cycle.

Now, George, kindly describe the basis for your "substantial doubt"
on this score.

But before you raise a hew and cry about "protecting public health,"
kindly look at the pre-emptive rebuttals of that rationale (which
would only apply to a minority of biomedical research in any case) in:

    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]

There is no point rehearsing here arguments that have already been
rebutted before.

> The great values of electronic publishing can be realized without
> diminishing quality -- by simply creating many fully electronic journals
> that are edited professionally and follow the peer review process
> diligently and are made available on the internet free of charge to all.

We are in complete agreement with this. But what is to be done about
the overwhelming majority of the current refereed journal corpus that
is NOT available on the internet free of charge to all?

Should researchers wait? Should the physicists have waited?

And what does this have to do with the Ingelfinger Rule?

> Anyone who wishes to read the information on a printed page can
> furnish their own paper. Some of you presumably know that at
> we have been doing this now for two
> years with and a developing family of eJournals that
> complement our many other forms of electronic information, all made freely
> available very rapidly to internet users.

I repeat. This is commendable, but it is also minuscule. What do you
recommend be done, now, about all the rest?

> What the world does not need (although i grant that it does already
> have it in many fields in and out of science)is mass produced vanity
> epresses where anyone at all can be the self-designated author, the
> editor, and the publisher, all at the same time, and potentially fake
> the whole thing, to the possible detriment of mislead readers.

Where on earth did this come from? Who (apart from a few extremists
who have been as roundly rebutted in this Forum as the Ingelfinger
Rule has been) are proposing any such thing? The theme of this Forum
is the freeing of the REFEREED literature online, not the creation of
an unrefereed vanity press.

It is a fact, however, that all refereed papers consist of a series of
embryological stages, of which the pre-refereeing preprint is one (or
several). Please focus on the proposition at hand, which is that IN
ADDITION to the primary objective, which, we agree, is freeing the
post-refereeing stage online, researchers can, like the physicists,
ALSO self-archive the pre-refereeing stage. Besides allowing the
research cycle to accelerate and broaden still further, this also
provides an effective and legal way to set the stage for freeing the
refereed stage even in the face of the most restrictive copyright
transfer agreement.

But forget about the pre-refereeing stage for the moment, if you
like: The primary objective here is the freeing of the refereed
corpus online. Should it wait till all publishers voluntarily take
the medscape route? Is that the virtue of the Ingelfinger Rule, that
it constrains us to waiting patiently until that happens, if it is
ever destined to happen?

> I have absolutely no interest in censoring the internet, even if
> it were possible. But i believe readers of biomedical information have a
> right to be able to reasonably trust at least some sources of such
> information and be able to determine by label and reputation what
> has a good chance of being trustworthy because the authors, peer
> reviewers, editors, and publishers followed accepted time-tested rules.

And who here do you imagine disagrees with that? And what have you
heard here (tediously and unpersuasively) to the contrary? This Forum
is dedicated to freeing the REFEREED literature online. The labels
and reputations are to remain unchanged -- except that it is all to
be free. The unrefereed preprint lacks a journal label on paper; the
very same thing is true on-line.

So caveat emptor. We don't need the Ingelfinger Rule to protect us
from ourselves.

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

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:46:07 GMT