Re: Garfield: "Acknowledged Self-Archiving is Not Prior Publication"

From: Albert Henderson <>
Date: Thu, 12 Sep 2002 14:28:21 +0100

> > Stevan Harnad:
> > This is precisely why the copyright law's definition of
> > "publication" has nothing to do with the researcher's definition
> > of publication, and it was to the researcher's definition of
> > publication that Gene was referring; that is the ONLY sense
> > of publication that has any relevance whatsoever to what Gene
> > was saying.
> Keith:
> OK, so this whole discussion hinges on the contract
> definition of "publication," which can be clearly
> defined by contract language. Therefore, it has little
> to do with what the academic community believes
> "publication" means, so long as the publishers clearly
> define what "publication" means in their respective
> contracts.
> The point of your reply seems to indicate that this is
> not a copyright issue, but a contract issue. I think
> that will make your stance more palatable to the
> members of this list - and should clarify to the
> publishers that they may want to revisit their
> contract language if they want to avoid hassles
> involved with enforcing their respective
> pre-publication rules.

The question here has nothing to do with copyright or contracts. It is an
editorial policy -- the wisdom of rejecting research that was released
prematurely -- by certain biomedical publishers. The critics all seek
to "publish first" without regard to whether work has been reliably
reviewed. It would be refreshing to have them admit it for once. Journal
editors have the right to reject submissions for any reason including
failure to respect their policies.

Airing this issue in the copyright forum only demonstrates how confused
the advocates of unvetted preprints have become. My impression has been
that their agenda is 'less spending for libraries' no matter what the
cost to public health, the research community and those who earn their
living as a benefit of copyright. The journals that have followed this
policy have been very successful in every sense. They are well-cited and
highly regarded by authors and readers. Their imprimateur on an article
is a mark of prestige. They are more than sound financially thanks to
high circulation and robust advertising.

The policy, known as the "Ingelfinger rule" after the former editor
of the New England Journal of Medicine, has survived despite numerous
attempts to blacken it.

The rule asserts that unvetted research claims may mislead the health
community and the general public into ineffective if not unsafe practices.

Authors who wish to be published in presigious circumstances comply
with the rule. They will not talk to news reporters or 'self-archive'
[a misnomer] in advance of publication.

There is no doubt that circulating a paper on a well-trafficked public
preprint server is a form of publication, even if it does not meet the
scholars' use of the term as denoting recognition and presentation by an
established editorial board. The use of the term "archive" to describe
the act of posting to a server acknowledges the intent to publish,
in imitation of the long established "Archives of" group of journals.

The open [access] archive movement is an arrogant attempt to raise
the status of informal publication by according automated servers an
inflated status. Its advocates crave to stand near to publishers whose
art and skill depends on making a sophisticated series of judgments. The
movement attempts to do so, of course, by mythologizing copyrights within
the publishing process, promising authors the moon, and trading on the
ignorance of the learned community (most of which could not run a candy
store) about business. For example, the use of the term "archive" seeks
to assure authors and readers that "archived" material is not ephemeral,
in spite of the fact that drafts submitted to journal editors are often
revised before formal publication or rejected outright. Preprints may
be cited. Indeed, they are cited and may form the basis for new research
and authorship as if they were formally published.

Critics of the embargo policy, all of whom compete with the policy for
authors' attention, haven't a chance. With no standing with journals'
editors, the critics would like to convince authors to boycott the
journals, either by defying the policy or by shunning such journals in
their submissions. Boycotts by authors are a joke. Authors are more
interested in being recognized by established editors than in pursuing
a utopian vision. Last May, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported:
"Few of the 30,000 scientists who pledged to boycott journals that don't
make their content free online after six months have actually followed
through on that threat, and few journals have changed their ways."

Best wishes,

Albert Henderson
Received on Thu Sep 12 2002 - 14:28:21 BST

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