Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

UPI breaks Archives of General Psychiatry embargo on pot-psychosis study

with 4 comments

Not many details yet, but UPI just broke an embargo on an Archives of General Psychiatry study on whether kids who used pot more often were more likely to develop psychosis as young adults. At 7:48 p.m. Eastern tonight, they published a story about the study, which was embargoed until Monday at 4 p.m. Eastern.

The URL where the story used to be now reads:

BRISBANE, Australia, Feb. 26 (UPI) –(Editor’s note: Please disregard and do not use the item headlined “Pot use linked to psychosis risk.” It was filed in error and in violation of an embargo. We apologize for any inconvenience. Thank you. –UPI)

The journal has lifted the embargo, and Bloomberg has already pushed their story live.

I’ll update when I find out if there will be any sanctions against UPI.

UPDATE, 5:05 p.m. Eastern, March 1, 2010: Jann Ingmire, director of media relations for JAMA and the Archives journals, tells me there will be no sanctions against UPI because the agency was apparently unaware that the material was embargoed. Here’s what Jann said happened:

A media relations representative from a major academic medical center pitched one of his experts to comment on the Archives of General Psychiatry study to a freelance UPI reporter.   The media relations person did not provide the embargo information to the reporter.   Apparently, the reporter has never worked with our journals before so didn’t know we would never release a study on a Friday or that our information would be embargoed until Monday for the Archives journals and Tuesdays for JAMA.    To my knowledge, the reporter never contacted us for a copy of the study.   If he/she had, they would have been reminded by us that the study was embargoed until Monday afternoon at 3pm central time.

You can be assured that I have followed up with the media relations person who started this chain of events and promises have been made for this to never happen again.

An editor at another media outlet contacted us Friday evening to alert us to the UPI story.   When we contacted UPI, the newsdesk editor was very apologetic and pulled the story from the wires, as well as sending a note to their subscribers.   Unfortunately, the story had been seen by other media and was already on Google and it’s nearly impossible to get something removed from Google.   The JAMA/Archives editors decided we should lift the embargo.

I don’t think it’s fair to sanction UPI since the reporter was apparently unaware that the information was embargoed.  UPI was also very responsive and pulled their story when we contacted them Friday night.


Written by Ivan Oransky

February 26, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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4 Responses

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  1. Love your blog! I work in Brisbane, Australia. So far as I can see the journal had NOT lifted its embargo when Bloomberg and AFP ran stories on this paper. The paper, to be published in the May issue of the journal, was due for “early release” but not before Monday 4pm US Eastern time (8 am Tuesday Australian time). The wire stories were picked up by major Australian media websites Saturday and Sunday our time (e.g. NINEmsn, Sky news, smh.com.au and brisbanetimes.com.au). On Monday morning our time I rang the media contact for the Queensland Brain Institute and was told the lead author of the paper JOhn McGrath would not be doing interviews except on an embargoed basis. He had certainly not been informed of any lifting of the embargo.
    I can see how reporters might misconstrue that the paper was released. On the JAMA media site, if you click on the link from the press release to the paper you arrive at a page (curiously headed “updated May 1, 2010”) and it says Early Release Articles and contains a pdf of the paper. Nowhere does it say “embargoed”. However if you open the embargoed content page of the media site it offers Early Release articles for the Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med and the Arch Gen Psychiatry and it clearly says “embargoed content” in brackets.
    I spent a fair bit of time today trying to work out if we could run this story on our website – so thought I might as well share the machinations with you! (For the record, we haven’t run it yet as we could see no evidence that the embargo was lifted.)

    Rada Rouse

    March 1, 2010 at 7:36 am

  2. Rada, thanks very much for your comment. It sounds as though there’s still some confusion over this story. The embargo was in fact lifted Friday night Eastern time. This is the top of the email I received at 20:15 Eastern:

    From: JAMA/Archives
    To: Health Editor
    Sent: Fri Feb 26 20:15:34 2010

    Subject: Embargo lifted for Archives of General Psychiatry study

    Because of an embargo break, the embargo for the following Archives of General Psychiatry study has been lifted and is for immediate release.



    Media Advisory: To contact John McGrath, M.D., Ph.D., F.R.A.N.Z.C.P., e-mail Anna Bednarek at a.bednarek@uq.edu.au.

    Long-Time Cannabis Use Associated With Psychosis


    March 1, 2010 at 7:56 am

  3. So the JAMA/Archives policy is “willful disregard.” If all journals stuck to that standard, would anybody be sanctioned? What percentage of embargo breaks are really intentional? Aren’t they almost always an accident?

    Ford Vox

    March 1, 2010 at 5:25 pm

  4. In response to my query, JAMA media relations emailed me Monday : “….in our haste to notify the reporters who had originally received the news release from us, we overlooked the Australian reporters who might not have been on our regular list (and also the researchers’ institution; we did touch base with Anna and Dr. McGrath this morning our time, so they are now aware.).”
    If an embargo breach is going to happen, you have to hope it doesn’t happen on a weekend!! Think I’m on the right mailing list now….

    Rada Rouse

    March 1, 2010 at 5:50 pm

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