Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Does Nature Precedings give authors an embargo policy loophole?

with 2 comments

courtesy Nature

The other day, Bob Finn flagged a post on the NASW-Talk discussion list from A’ndrea Elyse Messer, senior science and research information officer at Penn State.

Messer wrote, in part (quoted with her permission):

It appears that this free and open site totally blows away Nature’s own embargo policy.

I don’t know when it came into being, but has anyone had researchers post pre accepted papers on it and/or has anyone used it to write a story before publication?

Messer seemed to be raising an interesting embargo question about Precedings, which describes itself this way:

Nature Precedings connects thousands of researchers and provides a platform for sharing new and preliminary findings with colleagues on a global scale.

Post pre-print manuscripts, posters and presentations on Nature Precedings to claim priority and receive feedback on your findings prior to formal publication.

I checked with Ruth Francis, head of press for Nature Publishing Group. You may recall that another Embargo Watch reader had asked whether Nature could Ingelfinger itself with a news story. I figured that Francis would send me to part of the Nature embargo policy that dealt with preprints and related issues, so I sent her this passage and asked if it held the answer to Messer’s question:

Nature does not wish to hinder communication between scientists. For that reason, different embargo guidelines apply to work that has been discussed at a conference or displayed on a preprint server and picked up by the media as a result. (Neither conference presentations nor posting on recognized preprint servers constitute prior publication.)

Our guidelines for authors and potential authors in such circumstances are clear-cut in principle: communicate with other researchers as much as you wish, but do not encourage premature publication by discussion with the press (beyond a formal presentation, if at a conference).

Yup, that was it, Francis told me. In other words, Precedings — as a “recognized preprint server” — doesn’t constitute “prior publication,” and as long as authors don’t “encourage premature publication with the press,” they’re not jeopardizing publication in Nature, a la the Ingelfinger Rule.

Studies posted on Nature Precedings can, of course, be submitted elsewhere, as the site notes:

Nature Precedings hosts manuscripts that may be submitted to any journal of any publisher. Nature and all Nature journals have a policy that permits such posts on recognized pre- or e-print servers such as Nature Precedings and arXiv without affecting their eligibility for publication, whether or not such postings result in discussion on other sites and in the media. We cannot take responsibility for the possibility of scooping by competitors. Authors submitting to other journals are advised to check their policies about prior postings before sending manuscripts to Nature Precedings.

So it’s possible that other journals may not take as open-minded a view as Nature, although many journals tend to follow the big journals’ leads. (After all, the Ingelfinger Rule originated at the New England Journal of Medicine.) Still, this bears watching, and Embargo Watch would love to hear from anyone who had trouble publishing somewhere other than Nature after posting in Nature Precedings.


Written by Ivan Oransky

September 22, 2010 at 9:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. The Nature journals (not just Nature) do indeed share this policy about preprint servers and other similar “pre-publicity”. As well as the embargo policy which you cite in your post, we have a pre-publicity policy for authors to guide them. http://www.nature.com/authors/editorial_policies/confidentiality.html

    A relevant paragraph to your post is:

    “Contributions being prepared for or submitted to a Nature journal can be posted on recognized preprint servers (such as ArXiv or Nature Precedings), and on collaborative websites such as wikis or the author’s blog. The website and URL must be identified to the editor in the cover letter accompanying submission of the paper, and the content of the paper must not be advertised to the media by virtue of being on the website or preprint server. Material in a contribution submitted to a Nature journal may also have been published as part of a PhD or other academic thesis.”

    Best wishes


    September 22, 2010 at 10:57 am

    • The paragraph quoted in the above comment confuses the heck out of me.

      “the content of the paper must not be advertised to the media by virtue of being on the website or preprint server.” — if a journalist can search the preprint server containing articles, isn’t the posting of an article on such a website, by definition, advertising to the media?

      The various statements quoted from Nature don’t seem to be consistent with each other.


      September 27, 2010 at 2:13 pm

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