The Ingelfinger to Open Science

The Authorea Team

The Ingelfinger rule is a policy started by Franz Ingelfinger in 1969 (Definition of Sole C....). Franz, the editor of The New England Journal of Medicine at the time, implemented the policy in order to protect the originality of the journal's publications-- and in effect created arguably one of the most important barriers to open science and preprints today.
The Ingelfinger rule is a policy of considering a manuscript for publication only if it has not been submitted elsewhere, including preprint repositories (like Authorea) and personal websites. This policy has been adopted by many other scientific journals, under the pretense that it encourages authors to get their work peer-reviewed before it is published (Angell 1991).
Image from Jinterwas
This scientific embargo system, in essence, protects a journal more so than it does a scientist. By assuring that content is new and fresh, journals are able to maintain a monopoly on the market. Controlling what information gets shared, when it gets shared, and for how much it gets shared for restricts timely communication, access to findings, and the reuse of them. Arguably, scientists remain largely monogamous in their journal choices due to policies like the Ingelfinger rule.  But with the rise of new ways to communicate findings like preprints and new models of peer review like open post-publication peer review, is it time to reconsider the Ingelfinger rule or do away with it all together?
In direct contradiction to the nature of science and scientific discovery, the Ingelfinger rule discourages the spread of valuable information. Rather than encouraging peer review, this rule promotes secrecy and possessiveness of scientific discovery. Frightened of disseminating information for fear of disqualifying their publishing status, scientists are far less likely to have a wide range of reviewers.