Re: Copyright, Embargo, and the Ingelfinger Rule

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 00:13:50 +0100

On Sat, 14 Jun 2003, Daniel Wolf wrote:

> I agree entirely with the self-archiving idea; unfortunately, it appears
> that some (if not many or most) commercially-published journals will refuse
> to even consider an article if it is already available in _any_ form. It is
> for that reason that I believe it necessary to use the leverage of the
> reviewing community to insist that journals should either change such
> best regards,

You are referring to the Ingelfinger Rule. No need to be concerned about
it. In fact, few journals ever had the Rule, and of those that did,
most are dropping it. Nature has already dropped it; so has the American
Psychological Association; Science soon will; the American Physical
Society never had it. I suspect that the American Chemical Society will
be among the die-hards, but the last journal to shut the door behind
it will be the New England Journal of Medicine, whose former Editor,
Franz Ingelfinger, was the one who formulated the Rule:

    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

It's important to understand two things about the Ingelfinger Rule.

(1) The Ingelfinger Rule is neither a copyright nor a legal matter; it is
merely a journal submission policy: "We will not referee or publish any
text that has been previously been made publicly available in any form."

(2) Not only is the Ingelfinger Rule not a legal matter, but it is also
not enforceable, nor can it even be given a coherent interpretation,
as it is poised on a slippery slope: Does circulating paper preprints
count as making publicly available? (How many?) Does presenting it at a
scientific conference? How about earlier drafts? How different do they
have to be to *not* be a violation of the Ingelfinger Rule?

As most journals don't even purport to have the Ingelfinger Rule,
and those that do cannot enforce it, the best policy on the part of
authors is to ignore it, as all self-archivers have been doing for
over a decade. Self-archiving needs to be accelerated substantially,
but it is certain that it is *not* the Ingelfinger Rule that is holding
self-archiving back! It is author unawareness of the strong and direct
causal connection between access and impact:

Hence what is needed is not authors and referees crusading against
the Ingelfinger Rule, but *for* immediate, universal, self-archiving!

Stevan Harnad
Received on Sun Jun 15 2003 - 00:13:50 BST

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