Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

With ASCO fever in full swing, the Journal of Clinical Oncology joins the short embargo parade

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If you were wondering how many metaphors I could mix in an Embargo Watch headline, I hope I’ve just fulfilled your wildest expectations. I can’t help it. I get exercised over short embargoes.

Yesterday, at 1:20 p.m. Eastern, to be precise, I received the Journal of Clinical Oncology’s (JCO) weekly email about articles published ahead of print. The embargo was of course listed: “The articles listed in this Publish Ahead of Print Notification are embargoed until May 24, 2010, at 4:00 PM (EDT).”

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a record-breaker: Two hours and forty minutes to read studies with titles such as “Phase III Study of Bevacizumab Plus Docetaxel Compared With Placebo Plus Docetaxel for the First-line Treatment of HER2-negative Metastatic Breast Cancer.”

That beats the New England Journal of Medicine, the previous record winner, by more than an hour — at least since late February, when Embargo Watch began been keeping track.

I was curious about the reason for the rush, although I guessed it had something to do with the fact that the embargo on most of the 4,000 abstracts at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) — which publishes the JCO – had lifted last Thursday at 6 p.m. Eastern. (There was, not surprisingly, an embargo break on one of them.)

So perhaps the thinking was that reporters would have enough ASCO stuff to look at, and given their predilection for conference coverage, a few dozen JCO papers would be like spitting in the ocean. (Look, another metaphor!) I contacted ASCO, who confirmed that was the case. That of course did not explain why they didn’t just put out the release yesterday, then wait a few days to publish the papers. But if this is just an annual thing, then we can cut them some slack.

Hunting around the JCO’s media site, I learned that “upcoming JCO articles scheduled to publish online ahead of the print issue are typically announced every Wednesday.” Actually, I haven’t received that announcement on a Wednesday at least since the beginning of April, which is how far back I have the emails. They’ve come on Thursdays, at various points during the day.

At least the JCO embargo policy doesn’t claim that it’s in place to give journalists time to do better coverage, as others do. There’s probably a metaphor for that, but I’m tapped out.

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Written by Ivan Oransky

May 25, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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