Re: Nature's vs. Science's Embargo Policy

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2003 13:44:44 +0100

> On Fri, 24 Oct 2003, [identity deleted] wrote:
> It was nice to meet you in Berlin this week...
> Science does require the transfer of copyright to AAAS, but it also
> specifically allows papers to be posted on the author's own website and on
> any publicly-funded, not-for-profit archive immediately upon publication.
> (I'm sure you know it well, but just in case, the form is
> at:
> In practice, this does not seem different from Nature's "exclusive licence"
> agreement ( Can you clarify the
> difference for me?

It was nice to meet you in Berlin. The only difference between Nature
and Science is that Nature is a "green" journal and Science is only a
"blue" journal (in the Romeo colour-scheme):

This means that Nature authors are told that they can self-archive both
their preprint and their postprint, whereas Science authors are told they
can only self-archive their preprint, and only after publication. (Whether
this is based on copyright transfer or an exclusive license is, I agree,
completely irrelevant.)

Of the 7000+ journals sampled by the Romeo Rights project, 55% are
either blue or green. Let me first state that both the "blue" and the
"green" journals are on the side of the angels insofar as open access is
concerned (and of course so are the 2.5% of journals that are "gold" --
i.e., open-access journals, like the BMC and PLoS journals). For already
with the blue and green journals, open-access is *not* blocked by the
publisher; it is merely left up to individual authors to provide the
open access according to their own preferences (and their institution's
and research-funder's policy on open access).

This policy is partly what the Berlin Declaration is meant to influence
and help shape. It would help researchers' perception and understanding,
however, if a few things were stated more clearly by the blue and green

    (1) It should be made clearer whether "preprint" refers to the
    unrefereed draft, or to the final revised peer-reviewed draft
    (but minus the publisher's further value-added enhancements such
    as XML mark-up, links, PDF etc.). It doesn't really matter, but the
    authors need to know what they need to add to make sure that their
    self-archived version corrects any errors in the unrefereed preprint.

    (2) It is also important to make sure that authors realize that
    although open-access is primarily about the peer-reviewed final draft,
    it is potentially beneficial for the speed and progress of research to
    make even the unrefereed preprint available as soon as possible. (This
    has been found useful by physicists and many other disciplines
    for over 12 years now.) So whereas whether or not to make their
    unrefereed preprint public must always remain the authors' own choice
    (and not-yet-refereed papers need to be used with caution, as the
    research community knows), the journal certainly should not try
    to block that choice. (And in reality it cannot; so the remnants
    of the "Ingelfinger Rule" in the form of an apparent embargo
    on self-archiving the preprint before publication should just be
    sensibly and quietly dropped by the few journals that still profess
    it!) ).

But, as I said, these are just minor points having to do with perception
and understanding. Insofar as open access is concerned, Science, along
with Nature and the rest of the non-white 55% of research journals,
already stands with the angels. The purpose of the Berlin Declaration
is to encourage authors and their institutions to make *all* of their
research articles open access, either by publishing them in a gold journal
(when a suitable one exists -- <5% currently), or by publishing them in
a non-gold journal, but self-archiving them to make them immediately open
access. Many of the 45% of journals that are still "white" already agree
to self-archiving if asked, but the Berlin Declaration will encourage
them to make this official policy, so authors know; otherwise they are
more likely to switch to the blue/green journals in order to make sure
they can provide open access to their research.

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: Complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online is available at
the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01 & 02 & 03):
    Posted discussion to:

Dual Open-Access Strategy:
    BOAI-2: Publish your article in a suitable open-access journal
            whenever one exists.
    BOAI-1: Otherwise, publish your article in a suitable toll-access
            journal and also self-archive it.
Received on Fri Oct 24 2003 - 13:44:44 BST

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