The Sunday Times’ Jonathan Leake responds to PNAS
As Embargo Watch readers know, PNAS and the Archives of Internal Medicine have accused The Sunday Times‘ Jonathan Leake of two separate embargo breaks in the past two weeks. This morning, Jonathan forwarded me a response he sent to PNAS.
In his note to me, Jonathan wrote:
As you can see, these press officers have claimed they have banned us from their embargo system but this is rather misleading because we have a policy of not signing up to these embargo systems. Since we are not part of them we can hardly be banned. The press officers in question do know our position and I would suggest their statements are knowingly misleading.
Here’s the note he sent PNAS:
I have seen some comments attributed to you on blogsites suggesting that The Sunday Times has been blocked from receiving embargoed advance copies of PNAS research papers.
I think this follows our article about the evolution of polar bears in the paper on Sunday.
This is just to say that I have not subscribed to the PNAS embargo system, or any other kind of embargo system, for something close to a decade so it would be wrong to suggest we have breached it or to suggest that any kind of ban has been imposed.
Additionally, our report on Sunday did not draw upon your research paper at all. I did, of course, know that the PNAS paper was coming out but found there was a raft of earlier research which drew much the same conclusions from similar material. That research, all in the public domain, was what we cited. Here are some of the links we used.
We also said that there was new research (yours) due out shortly but did not give details.
There is a long tradition in all areas of journalism of covering reports in advance of their formal publication, usually without giving exact details of their contents. There seems no reason why science papers should be exempt from this, especially when they are covering much the same ground as previous reports.
I did think the study was fascinating and I am glad our report did help generate significant coverage for it. I am sorry if it inconvenienced you.
PNAS‘ Jonathan Lifland says he responded to the note, and considers the matter closed.
For me, two issues:
One, as Jonathan Leake notes, it’s impossible to ban someone from an embargo list if they were never on it in the first place.
Two is one that’s less clear-cut: Would this be considered an embargo break if it hadn’t happened the day before the embargo was scheduled to lift?