Broken jaw: PNAS embargo on polar bear origin smashed
Oddly, the very day I post on the availability of studies following PNAS embargoes, the Sunday Times of London broke a PNAS embargo. The story, on the origins of the polar bear, is datelined February 28, despite a 3 p.m. Eastern embargo today (March 1).
PNAS‘ note to reporters:
Due to an embargo break, PNAS is lifting the embargo early on the following paper:
Article #09-14266: “Complete mitochondrial genome of a Pleistocene jawbone unveils the origin of polar bear,” by Charlotte Lindqvist, Stephan Schuster, Yazhou Sun, Sandra Talbot, Ji Qi, Aakrosh Ratan, Lynn Tomsho, Lindsay Kasson, Eve Zeyl, Jon Aars, Webb Miller, Ólafur Ingólfsson, Lutz Bachmann, and Øystein Wiigd.
PNAS media and communications manager Jonathan Lifland responded to my request for details with the Sunday Times link, and this comment:
The majority of our infrequent embargo violations are accidental and typically the result of mislabeled copy that does not properly list the 3 p.m. EST Monday embargo expiration. We have a separate situation with the Sunday Times of London. With EurekAlert, we have prevented their editors and reporters from accessing the embargoed news section of EurekAlert, which is where pre-print copies of our articles are accessible. Restricting access is our primary sanction against offending organizations.
I asked Jonathan how long the sanction would be in place, and learned that this was the third such break by the Sunday Times:
At this time, we have no plans to remove the restriction we have placed on the editors and reporters from the Sunday Times.
We use a tiered system to sanction organizations that break the PNAS news embargo. An unintentional one-time violation typically warrants a warning and a request for a clarification of the handling processes for embargoed news, whereas a second violation results in at least a one-month restriction from access and an editor-level explanation of the steps that will be taken to prevent a repeat occurrence.
With the exception of the Sunday Times, we have not had any three-time repeat offenders. In the case of the Times, we have removed all reporters and editors from accessing our media materials. We still request clarification from any media outlet that violates our embargo rules, such as the one that happened this weekend, and we would consider the possibility of reducing/removing the restrictions we place on any organization’s reporters if we are assured (with sufficient detail in their explanation) that they plan to respect the PNAS embargo.
A note: Having worked at a number of news organizations, I think I understand them well enough to know that calling out individuals is not always productive. So I’ll generally refer to breaks by news organizations, rather than individuals. But I just can’t help myself here, since the reporter’s name is Jonathan Leake.
UPDATE, 4:05 p.m.: My sharp former colleague Brendan Maher noted that the Daily Mail also appears to have broken the embargo with a story posted at 8:57 p.m. (presumably GMT) yesterday. PNAS‘ Jonathan tells me by email: “We have a message out to the Daily Mail asking about the circumstances regarding the apparent violation.”
Note: This post has been updated from the original, in which I didn’t yet know which news organization had broken the embargo.