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News from the open access movement

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Speak up on dropping the Ingelfinger rule

David Linden, Chief Editor at the Journal of Neurophysiology, is soliciting opinions on whether to consider submissions which have already circulated as preprints (i.e. whether to drop the journal's use of the Ingelfinger rule).  Thanks to DrugMonkey for the alert and for reprinting Linden's letter and survey.  Excerpt:

I am writing today to solicit your opinion on an important policy at the Journal of Neurophysiology. Presently, the journal will not review manuscripts that it considers to have undergone "prior publication." For most submissions this is not a problem: brief abstracts presented at meetings like Society for Neuroscience or Keystone conferences or Gordon conferences are not considered prior publication. However, in recent years it has become more popular for authors, particularly in the systems and computational neuroscience communities, to post full-length draft manuscripts on preprint servers like arXiv ( or Nature Precedings ( This is considered "prior publication" by the policy of the American Physiological Society....

These preprint servers have become a standard initial mode of scientific communication in the physics, astronomy and chemistry communities. They are permanent archives that are moderated (so they do not fill up with spam or political rants) but are not peer-reviewed. Authors submitting manuscripts to preprint servers retain the copyright to their work, which can then be transferred to the publisher when a later version of the work is accepted at a peer-reviewed journal....

There is little reason to believe that a change of policy to allow preprint server manuscripts at Journal of Neurophysiology will have a negative impact on either the editorial function or the business model of the journal. Institutions are not going to cancel their JN subscriptions in favor of free preprint access. Journal of Neurophysiology should benefit from getting manuscripts that are better for having received more feedback prior to submission and from receiving submissions from authors who otherwise would avoid JN due to the prior publication policy.

Other publishers are rapidly adopting policies that allow preprint sever manuscripts.... [PS: Omitting a list of journals in the same field.]

It is my view that changing the guidelines at Journal of Neurophysiology to allow for submission of preprint server manuscripts can only improve scientific communication and benefit the Journal. It is important to stress that preprint server submission would be voluntary and that the authors' decision to make use of this process would have no bearing on editorial decisions.

The Publications Committee of the American Physiological Society will meet on March 18, 2009 and I have placed a motion to change the guidelines to allow preprint server manuscripts to be reviewed at JN on the agenda. When this issue was considered at the 2008 meeting of the committee, it was rejected. A key factor in the committee's decision will be a measure of where the neuroscience community stands on this issue. I'm asking you to take a moment to register your opinion. You do not have to be a member of APS to vote in this poll. You do not have to be faculty either: students, postdocs and staff are all welcome. You are encouraged to distribute this message to your colleagues. You can vote by filling in the info below and emailing to

Your name:

Your institution:

______ Yes, I support amending the guidelines to allow preprint server manuscripts to undergo review at Journal of Neurophysiology.

______ No, I do not support amending the guidelines to allow preprint server manuscripts to undergo review at Journal of Neurophysiology.

Your comments (optional):

Comment.  It's time to retire the dinosaur Ingelfinger rule, and Linden's argument for doing so is beautifully done.  Until the rule is publicly dropped, many researchers will hesitate to make their preprints OA through preprint servers or repositories, fearing that it would disqualify them from publishing the same manuscripts later in a journal.  Please take a moment to fill out Linden's survey question and send it in.