Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

The FDA has been using embargoes to manipulate journalists. Here’s how.

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Charles Seife

Charles Seife

Embargo Watch readers may recall a few episodes over the years involving the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA), in which the agency tried to turn reporters into stenographers. In 2011 and 2014, journalists were required to agree not to speak to any outside sources before an embargo lifted, if they wanted access to the information ahead of time.

The 2011 incident made me a little, well, let’s say outraged, and the Association of Health Care Journalists, on whose board I’ve sat since 2002, wrote a letter to the FDA about the policy. The FDA reversed itself, which I cheered. But they went back to their old tricks in 2014, this time ending up on the radar of the New York Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan.

Despite the frustration and publicity, the FDA doesn’t seem to have made any changes. And in the new issue of Scientific American, my New York University Institute of Journalism colleague Charles Seife reveals Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

September 22, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Does the EurekAlert! hack show us what a world without embargoes would be like?

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eurekalertlogoEmbargo Watch readers are likely aware by now that EurekAlert!, the press release clearinghouse run by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is offline after being hacked, as I and others reported yesterday. Given EurekAlert!’s dominance in the world of embargoed releases, the episode has understandably led to some musings by science reporters about life without embargoes: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

September 15, 2016 at 8:30 am

Posted in eurekalert policy

EurekAlert! taken offline after being hacked

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eurekalertlogoEurekAlert!, the embargoed news source run by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), has been temporarily taken offline following a “serious security breach.”

Ginger Pinholster, AAAS chief communications officer and director, office of public programs, said in a statement posted to the site last night at 10:10 p.m. Eastern that usernames and passwords had been compromised, and that embargoed information had been released.

Pinholster tells Embargo Watch that two embargoed releases were released early, and that:

The unknown individual was not selling login information. He seemed motivated to see whether he could breach EurekAlert!.

All of the site’s URLs now direct to a page with this message: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

September 14, 2016 at 8:06 am

Posted in eurekalert policy

Motherboard loses embargoed access following Science break — which came on heels of previous probation

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motherboardI have an update on Monday’s post about an embargo break by Motherboard on a study in Science about how dogs understand language. Reporters at Motherboard — and VICE, Motherboard’s parent company — have been sanctioned for the break, and will lose access to EurekAlert!, provided by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), for six weeks.

[Please note this post — including the headline — has been updated. A previous statement by AAAS saying that Motherboard had been previously sanctioned was in error; AAAS told us this morning that the previous break had led to probation, not a sanction.]

It turns out Motherboard was just about to come off of probation for another recent embargo break. AAAS chief communications officer Ginger Pinholster tells Embargo Watch: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

August 31, 2016 at 9:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

“Whoops.” Science lifts embargo early on dog speech processing study after break by Motherboard

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science 2014At 4:47 p.m. Eastern today, about three days before the embargo on this week’s issue was scheduled to lift, Science/AAAS sent out this email to its media list:

Effectively immediately, Science is lifting the embargo on the study, “Neural mechanisms for lexical processing in dogs,” by A. Andics and colleagues, because of an embargo violation by a registered outlet to which other reporter registrants have made us aware.

The Science Press Package Team and EurekAlert! take such violations extremely seriously and we will be following up swiftly with the responsible media outlet. We apologize for the inconvenience this issue creates for our registrants globally.

The embargo breaker? Motherboard, who had already taken the piece down, replacing it with this, (headlined “Whoops”): Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

August 29, 2016 at 6:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Good news: PNAS won’t embargo papers that have already appeared as preprints

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32.coverAbout a month ago, I suggested — based on an example of things gone wrong — that journals shouldn’t embargo papers that had already appeared on preprint servers. A little more than a week after that, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) seemed to agree.

And now, they’ve made it official. Here’s a note the journal sent its press list Friday: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

August 15, 2016 at 10:00 am

Doing the right thing: PNAS decides not to embargo paper that had appeared as a preprint

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pnas juneOn July 8, following a bit of a clumsy episode involving the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), I urged journals not to embargo papers that had already appeared as preprints.

A week later, this arrived in my inbox: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

July 18, 2016 at 3:13 pm