Nature's vs. Science's Embargo Policy

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2005 15:50:08 +0000

Pertinent prior threads"

    "Nature's vs. Science's Embargo Policy"
    (thread started January 2000)

    "Open Letter to Philip Campbell, Editor, Nature"
    (thread started January 2003)

    "Open Access vs. NIH Back Access and Nature's Back-Sliding"
    (thread started January 2005)

Excerpt from first editorial of new journal, Nature Physics:

    "Something that isn't a new development, but a policy shared
    by all Nature titles, is that we do not object to papers
    being posted on preprint servers. We would only advise that,
    if you do so ahead of publication of your manuscript in Nature
    Physics, you risk diluting the impact of your paper in the
    media and the wider scientific community. But preprint servers
    -- in particular -- are integral to the working life
    of physicists. Far from banning any posting, we applaud the
    communication that the servers foster among researchers."

The above quote is very revealing of Nature's (and many other
publishers') profound ambivalence toward OA self-archiving -- and the
double-talk that is the only language in which this (and any other
similar equivocation) must needs be framed! ("You risk diluting your
paper's impact if you make it as widely accessible as possible, as early
as possible"!)

The underlying conflict of interest for a publisher is very simple:

    (1) As a publisher, concerned with minimising any possible risk to
    my revenue streams, I oppose OA self-archiving

   (2) But as a research journal publisher, providing a service to the
   research community on the basis of papers that researchers freely
   submit to me, asking no royalties, and only for the sake of maximising
   their research impact, I cannot directly oppose OA self-archiving.

So I mumble and fumble.

    "Not a Proud Day in the Annals of the Royal Society"

    Royal Society III

This is also why the formal contractual jargon of all but the most
forthright of publishers (such as the American Physical Society) is
still so full of vagueness and double-talk, and has been for several
years now, being constantly revised to keep up good research-community
relations while at the same time striving to keep authors as confused
as possible for as long as possible. See the AmSci threads above, plus
the following FAQ:

You can't blame publishers, though, for trying to perpetuate the mists
of confusion for as long as they can manage: They are, as noted, merely
trying to do whatever they can to shield their revenue streams from any
perceived risk for as long as humanly possible. And Nature, after all,
is basically green, if you manage to see your way through the murk:

Far more of a head-shaker is the murk inside the minds of the 85% of
the researcher community who have not yet got round to doing what 93%
of their journals have already given them their (ambivalent, reluctant,
fog-bound, but basically green) blessing to go ahead and do.

    "A Keystroke Koan For Our Open Access Times"
    (thread started October 2003)

Hence it's now down to researchers' institutions and funders to
"incentivise" for their researchers the doing of what is so obviously
in their own (and research's) best interests to do, just as their
institutions and funders have been incentivising publishing itself all
along, with their "publish or perish" carrot/stick...

    "Mandating OA around the corner?"
    (thread started July 2004)

Stevan Harnad
Received on Thu Dec 29 2005 - 16:45:30 GMT

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