eLife, the new open-access journal funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society, and the Wellcome Trust, announced its media policy earlier this week. (I was hoping to jump on this Monday, but despite being remarkably unaffected personally by Hurricane Sandy in midtown Manhattan, there were of course other considerations this week involving my family, my Reuters Health staff, and others — many of whom are still coping with the effects of the storm.)
The short version of this post: I love this policy.
From the policy’s preamble: Read the rest of this entry »
Another chink in the Ingelfinger armor? Arsenic life talk forces Science to release paper early, without embargo
As this post goes live, so too go live two Science papers refuting the heavily criticized “arsenic life” paper published in the journal in 2010. (If you’re not familiar with the findings, I’d recommend Carl Zimmer’s excellent work on this subject, which he gathers here. You can read about the various embargo issues involving NASA and Science here.)
Embargo Watch readers may realize there’s something unusual about that.
Read the rest of this entry »
The NEJM was born in 1812 — as the impossible-to-remember New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery and the Collateral Branches of Science — and stories have been appearing about the milestone in various news outlets since January. The journal also has its own commemorative site.
On Connecticut’s WNPR today, in the second in a two-part series on the occasion, I was interviewed about the journal’s legacy, and not surprisingly, the reporter picked out a comment I made on the artificial news pegs reporters assign to medical news: Read the rest of this entry »
Ingelfinger Rule, be damned: Purdue press-releases football concussions study that isn’t published yet
Last week, a few days before the Super Bowl, a Purdue University press officer sent veteran health and science reporter Nancy Shute a press release about what looked like an interesting study. Titled “Football findings suggest concussions caused by series of hits,” the release was about work by Purdue’s Eric Nauman and colleagues, set to be published in the Journal of Biomechanics.
Shute was intrigued enough by the release to go look for the paper. (She knows as well as I do that reporting on studies from press releases — which some of our competitors seem to do — is journalistic malpractice.) But she couldn’t find it anywhere on the journal’s site, so she asked Emil Venere, the press officer, what was going on.
The paper hadn’t been posted yet, Venere told her. The journal had accepted it, but it might be weeks before it’s posted. Purdue had inquiries about it already, and didn’t feel they could wait.
Hmm, I thought. Purdue, with the willing participation of one of its scientists, was promoting a study that wasn’t published yet. Journals frown on that sort of thing, citing the Ingelfinger Rule, which basically says that scientists who seek publicity for their work before it appears in print (or online) won’t have that work published in their journals. The rule is often over-interpreted by scientists, who refuse to talk to reporters about their research for fear of losing a tenure- or grant-determining paper.
So I asked Venere whether the journal had green-lighted the release. Venere sent me the paper, and said by email: Read the rest of this entry »
Reactions to a New York Times story from last week about a new definition of autism that could limit the number of people diagnosed with the condition — and therefore eligible for support and services — have turned into a good case study in how the Ingelfinger Rule works.
For the uninitiated, here’s how veteran medical trade reporter Bob Finn describes the rule:
Franz J. Ingelfinger, M.D., (1910-1980) was editor of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) from 1967-1977. During his tenure he decreed that for an article to be published in his journal it must not previously have appeared elsewhere. The rule prohibited authors from releasing their results to the news media before the date they were published in the journal. A small number of other journals (such as JAMA) developed similar policies, and the net result is that scientists are often afraid to talk to reporters for fear that they’ll lose the opportunity to publish in JAMA or NEJM (or Nature or Cell or Science).
The new study, by Yale’s Fred Volkmar and colleagues, took a look at the likely effects of the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria for autism. The fifth edition of the DSM is scheduled to be published in 2013, and has already been plagued by controversy. As the Times reports: Read the rest of this entry »
Embargo Watch readers have probably noticed by now that I’ve become far more concerned about the role of the Ingelfinger Rule in controlling the flow of scientific information than I am with embargoes per se. I’m still exasperated with inconsistent and bizarre embargo policies, but it’s the specter of Ingelfinger that I think looms larger.
So I went on high alert last week when Emily Lakdawalla, a blogger for the Planetary Society and winner of the Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award, sent me this tweet:
@ivanoransky I thought of you today when B. Sicardy presented cool Eris results @DPS mtg today but said we can’t discuss b/c Nature embargo
I asked for more details, saying that didn’t sound consistent with Nature‘s embargo policy, which explicitly states that scientists can present at meetings, even if journalists are present, as long as they don’t court reporters’ attention.
Last Monday, I had the pleasure of serving on a panel on embargoes for Science Writers in New York (SWINY). I was joined by Steve Sternberg of US News and World Report, Neda Afsarmanesh of Nature, and Elaine Larson of the American Journal of Infection Control for what I found to be a provocative and open discussion of one of my pet topics.
Here are my slides from the event, which build on previous presentations I’ve given as my thought process evolves. As I’ve tried to make clear, my problem isn’t with embargoes, as long as they’re consistent. It’s with the way the Ingelfinger Rule makes scientists reluctant to speak to reporters (scroll down for the slide control panel): Read the rest of this entry »
It’s ASCO time: USA Today breaks NEJM embargoes on vemurafenib and ipilimumab studies, but no sanctions. Plus: Ingelfinger!
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting runs through tomorrow, and generated an embargo break this weekend when USA Today ran a story about melanoma treatments before the embargo had lifted. According to a message at about 9:30 a.m. Sunday from the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), which was publishing the studies in question:
We are lifting the embargo immediately for the Original Articles, “Improved Survival with Vemurafenib in Melanoma with BRAF V600E Mutation,” and “Ipilimumab plus Dacarbazine for Previously Untreated Metastatic Melanoma;” and editorial, “Been There, Not Done That — Melanoma in the Age of Molecular Therapy,” following a story that appeared on USA Today’s website. This content will be published on NEJM.org as soon as possible.
The break was “a mistake,” NEJM tells Embargo Watch: Read the rest of this entry »
By now, if you follow health and science news, you will have probably heard about the results of a trial that isn’t scheduled to be announced until Sunday at an ophthalmology conference. But the top-line findings of the CATT study, comparing Avastin and Lucentis for macular degeneration, appeared in the New York Times yesterday thanks to a scoop by Andrew Pollack. The embargo on the full results of the study has just been lifted by the New England Journal of Medicine, which is why this post can go live without breaking any kind of embargo, although the study itself hasn’t quite appeared online yet. (If you’re reading this after it went online, the link on “the study itself” will work.)
The incident isn’t over as far as Embargo Watch is concerned, however. There are a few issues here:
- Did Pollack break an embargo?
- Why didn’t NEJM invoke the Ingelfinger Rule, refusing to publish because results had already appeared?
- Will anyone be sanctioned for this? As the Times noted: “Investigators in the National Eye Institute trial had a day-long meeting on Tuesday in Chicago to learn the results. But they were sworn to secrecy.” Two of those investigators spoke to Pollack anonymously.
I asked NEJM’s media relations manager Karen Buckley about the decision: Read the rest of this entry »
Several weeks ago, an Embargo Watch item noted that Faculty of 1000, a site that organizes post-publication peer review, had struck a blow against the Ingelfinger Rule. According to that rule, as I wrote, “journals refuse to publish anything that’s appeared in the mainstream press or in other journals.”
(The post sparked a fair amount of discussion around the Web, and it has even apparently spawned a T-shirt design, “Give the finger to Ingelfinger.” Maybe I’ve found a business model for Embargo Watch.)
In my original post, I noted that I had asked the editors of two journals — Blood and The Journal of Proteome Research — who said they wouldn’t publish papers based on posters uploaded to F1000, but had in fact done so. That seemed like a contradiction, so I wanted to know the rationale for the journals’ policies, and also how they could explain their decisions to publish.
Last week, I heard back from those two journals. Blood sent this response on behalf of editor-in-chief Cynthia Dunbar: Read the rest of this entry »