Preprints: recall Nature’s nasty past

I read with pleasure that Nature is now actively promoting the use of preprints, having backed their dissemination since 1997 (see Nature 569, 307; 2019). It is worth remembering that when the first preprints were distributed 50 or so years ago, you frowned on the practice.

Several times in 1966, you railed against preprints, pioneered at the time by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). In July that year, you described them as “offensive” (Nature 211, 333–334; 1966). Preprints, you claimed the following month, were characterized by “inaccessibility, impermanence, illiteracy, uneven quality, and lack of considered judgment” (Nature 211, 897–898; 1966). By November, they were “an offence against scholarship” (Nature 212, 865–866; 1966). The following year, this first iteration of preprints was killed off because journals were boycotting them (see

Your motivation was presumably to protect your financial position, because you felt that the NIH preprint service — and its proposed extension into physics — threatened your status and profits. As you now realize, this is not the case.”

Nature Announces Support for Preprint Papers, Drops Ingelfinger Rule

Good news! On May 15, the Springer group of journals – including Nature – announced that it now encourages scientists to share preprint copies of their papers with journalists and others and that doing so wouldn’t affect how the paper is handled by the journal itself. The announcement thus brings Nature‘s adoption of a 50-year-old principle called the Ingelfinger rule to a close….”

Inchcoombe made chief publishing officer at Springer Nature | The Bookseller

“[Haank] added: “His deep knowledge of scholarly publishing is complemented by his keen understanding of how this is evolving. Steven was responsible for Nature Publishing Group’s move into open access, resulting in 60% of 2015 research articles on research articles being OA. Most recently he has led the innovative Nature content sharing initiative, the first of its kind in the industry. This vision and pioneering spirit are huge assets to Springer Nature.” …”