Re: Copyright, Embargo, and the Ingelfinger Rule

From: Albert Henderson <>
Date: Tue, 5 Jun 2001 15:50:24 +0100

on Sat, 2 Jun 2001 Peter Singer <peter.singer_at_UTORONTO.CA> wrote:

> SH> Note that the Ingelfinger Rule is NOT a legal matter, and is not a
> SH> copyright policy. It is a submission policy.
> SH> I agree with David, however, that if George is indeed here endorsing
> SH> the Ingelfinger Rule, so construed, then many of us are indeed urging
> SH> that this policy be changed. I am also urging that it be ignored, as
> SH> it has no legal force, and is unenforceable.
> ps> The key to understanding the enforceability of the Ingelfinger rule
> ps> in medicine is that it involves a type of Stokholm syndrome -- the
> ps> hostages to the rule (i.e., the authors) become their own hostage
> ps> keepers. The reason they do so is that author-reseasrchers are so
> ps> strongly incentivized (for getting grants, promotion, tenure,
> ps> awards) to publish in some of the very brand name journals that
> ps> strictly enforce the rule. In the short term,calls to publish in
> ps> those journals and ignore the rule, or boycott those journals
> ps> entirely, are interesting strategies to circumvent the Ingelfinger
> ps> rule. In the long term, a sucessful strategy to do so will need to
> ps> decouple the brand name of the journal from the measurement of
> ps> quality of the article. This will allow for a new set of journal
> ps> brand name independent incentives. The literature will never be
> ps> truly free until the incentive system in medicine and science is
> ps> changed to reward, rather than penalize, open access publication.
> ps> Singer PA. When Shall we be free? Journal of Electronic
> ps> Publishing 2000; 6 (2)
> ps> (

With the sole goal of getting free stuff you hold open the door for
quacks, cranks, and manufacturers' shills to mingle their garbage
with reports of good science. The general public (indeed many PhDs)
cannot distinguish between peer-reviewed articles, serious preprints,
and informercials made to look like research. Nor does the public
understand that science is a work in progress.

Witness the eagerness of the popular press to announce (and the
public to act upon) newly claimed "links" to obesity, cancer, or
heart disease. An "archive" branded with the imprimateur of the NIH
or a major university will inevitably be the source of trouble. The
self-"archiving" movement apparently hasn't given public safety a
moment's thought. More likely it does not care as the opportunity to
end spending on libraries justifies the means.

INGELFINGER RULE: Enforcing the Ingelfinger rule aims to assure the
public whatever degree of good science could be coerced by major
journals. The classic lessons of bogus "miraculous cure promotions,"
alchemy, astrology, chlorophyl, fad diets, off-label therapies,
vitamin overdoses, herbal self-medication, and so on seem to be
lost here. Indeed, a major complaint of cranks and quacks is that the
major journals and research sponsors reject their work. Moreover,
self-publication is a prima facie "confilict of interest," so
conflict of interest will cease to be an issue if you have your way.

Is "free stuff" worth the potential hazard to public health? The
long-standing complaints about the Ingelfinger rule stem from
frustration at researchers' reticence that keep them from scooping
the top journals with a news item. It is the same type of envy that
spawns complaints about commercial publishers who have capitalized on
the failures and inflexibility of association editors. These sorts of
pettiness should have no place in science, (although they often do).
It seems when academics are under fire, they form a circle and begin
to shoot at each other rather than at the real enemy.

Self-archiving is not making science information free. It is already
free in libraries! If the libraries do their job, they not only make it
available but they provide professional guides who are able to assess
the readers and provide information that is appropriate.

In contrast to free-in-libraries, free-on-the-Internet lowers the
threshhold to esoteric and sometimes potentially dangerous materials,
putting them in the hands of an uninformed and trusting public. Many
believe as Timothy Leary once preached, "You have the right to be
your own pharmacologist."

Obviously the reason the Ingelfinger question never materialized with
the LANL/XXX server is that differential equations, common in physics
and math, alienate most readers. No one changes their life style
based on recent claims by physicists and mathematicians. Not that
physicists are bound by ethical principles. Alan Sokal proved that
beyond dispute by submitting a bogus article to a journal as a
practical joke. For all I know, his targets have gotten even and are
quietly enjoying their little XXX adventure.

STOCKHOLM SYNDROME: the Stockholm syndrome applies better to the
godfather of the physics family, the US Department of Energy. The
major US physics publishing group, AIP, feeds at the same trough as
many of its authors. It dares not oppose the undermining of its
copyrights by the LANL preprint server which now calls itself an
"archive." AIP was not so kind to Texaco.

LANL could easily have made its preprint server an AIP project.
Instead it fostered a taxpayer-financed devaluation of private
enterprise. This appears to me to be contrary to long-standing policies
supported by both major parties. Considering the huge government
spending on sponsored R&D and its contribution to indirect
expenditures, it is shocking. There is a very good chance that
Congress and/or the Administration will tell the Dept of Energy to
drop it -- as they should have done when it spread beyond the
Arpanet. Having demonstrated the technology, there is no more
reason for the government to proceed further. After all, much as we
would all like free energy, the U.S. government will never generate
free power for the public. Nor should it do so with information,
particularly when the consumers of science information are a small
wealthy community.

Like a Mississippi flood, the rising tide of information threatens
quality. Government science agencies have a responsibility to address
this problem. They contribute to the flood by sponsoring academic R&D.
Their programs also consume information and may lose productivity
thanks to poor quality ingredients. Science will never achieve top
productivity until it addresses dissemination in its spending and
includes science libraries in its budgets. The motives that support
"free literature" movement include getting rid of library spending.
Not too long ago an authoritative analysis of library spending
predicted that libraries would purchase no more books and journals
in a decade or two.[1] Library spending supports specialized journals
that bring order out of chaos and vet their authors' work. Automation
will never substitute for knowledgable editors. My impression is that
university managers don't care about quality.

Best wishes,

Albert Henderson


1. Ann Okerson and Kendon Stubbs. Remembrance of things past,
present ... and future? Publishers Weekly. 239,34 (July 27,
1992) p. 22-23. They wrote, "If the curve were extended even
further, by 2007 ARL libraries would stop buying books entirely,
and only purchase serials; by 2017 they would buy nothing, and
instead access everything."

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

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:46:08 GMT