Wiley lifts embargo on smoking Mayans study early after biologist posts a press release he never signed up for
So – if people keep sending me embargoed press releases even when I do not ask for them, do I have to follow the embargo?
My response, as Embargo Watch readers could have predicted:
No, @phylogenomics, you don’t have to follow embargoes you never agreed to: bit.ly/d3KQ52 Re: bit.ly/yKfC1a
That first link was to a 2010 Embargo Watch post titled, “You’re doing it wrong: Sending material and calling it embargoed before an agreement doesn’t make it so.”
Apparently, Eisen agreed with me, also not surprisingly. And he was none too happy about the press release spam in his inbox — from a list from which he’d tried to unsubscribe. So he did something I’ve been expecting someone to: He posted the press release, in an item called “How to stop press release spam? Post embargoed PRs. Here’s one about Mayans using tobacco:”
I am sick of receiving dozens of unsolicited press releases, especially those in topics not related to my work. So from now on I think I will be posting the press releases whether there is an embargo or not, since I did not agree to any embargo in these cases (see Ivan Oransky’s post at Embargo Watch about this).
I contacted Wiley, who publishes the journal in question — Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry — about Eisen’s post. They said they’d just picked up on it, and were figuring out what to do. Within two hours, they’d lifted the embargo. Here’s the top of the email that went out:
The embargo on this story has been broken and so the embargo is lifted effective immediately.
The embargo exists to ensure that as little time as possible elapses between media coverage of a news story and the full paper being available, and to provide journalists and others in the media with time to research and write about the story ahead of the article publication. We will now endeavour to publish the paper online as soon as possible to reduce this time.
In some sense, I’ve been waiting for this kind of thing to happen — not encouraging it, mind you, since I work at a large news organization and can’t afford to jeopardize all of my colleagues’ embargoed access — but expecting it. Brian Reid predicted something similar in an early guest post. Embargoes are porous, as I’ve noted before, and that’s particularly true when press lists turn out to be less clean than publicists would like us to think.
The episode is certainly a wake-up call for those publicists, who should probably invest some time and technology in vetting their press lists — and pronto. That’s important not just so Eisen and others’ inboxes don’t get clogged. Embargoing studies — which as I”ve noted before, benefits journals — carries a responsibility to make sure those embargoes are enforceable and well-managed.
And this doesn’t mean I think fewer people should have access to embargoed material, as I’ve also noted before. I just think that publicists shouldn’t be sending embargoed studies to anyone who hasn’t agreed to an embargo.
Update, 9 a.m. Eastern, 1/11/12: Wiley sent this in response to my question about how Eisen ended up on the embargoed list:
Jonathan was on our lists because we’ve been in touch before about a range of content that he was interested in. It seems we hadn’t appreciated that the focus of his interest is much narrower than we thought.
We recognise that sending people what they want and only what they want is a bit of a challenge, and we’ve been working on our systems and processes over the last few months. We will shortly be launching our new press room which has an embargoed login area and as part of this initiative we will be getting in touch with all of our contacts to offer them access and to find out how they want to work with us.