Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Science decides not to move a paper’s embargo to match Nature’s

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Yesterday morning, Nature online news editor Ananyo Bhattacharya was about to put the finishing touches on a piece scheduled to coincide with the lifting of an embargo later that day on a Nature paper. The paper was on what time-lapse movies could tell scientists about the inner workings of cells.

Then he stopped in his tracks when he realized that the story mentioned another paper by the same group of scientists, scheduled for publication today (Thursday) in Science Express. Ananyo wanted to keep the mention of the paper, but that would be violating the Science embargo, which wasn’t due to lift until 2 p.m. today.

This kind of situation isn’t unusual, as I’ve noted in previous posts. Sometimes, journals won’t change their embargo dates. Sometimes, they will. And since I had praised Science for doing just that three weeks ago, as a similar New England Journal of Medicine paper was coming out, I figured they might.

So I contacted Science to find out whether they were considering moving their embargo ahead so that Wednesday stories could mention both papers.

Science press package director Kathy Wren said no one had asked (Ananyo confirmed that he hadn’t):

I haven’t seen the Nature paper you mention, but generally, we do not change the Science embargo solely because a research team has two papers being published the same week. Regularly having multiple, shifting embargo times would be confusing to our SciPak registrants as well as to Science authors and their press officers. And it would, I think, lead to embargo breaks, which are a disservice to everyone trying to communicate science in an accurate, well-balanced way.

So Nature‘s story came out yesterday, without any mention of the Science paper. (For those of you who may not follow basic science research closely, it’s not at all unusual for Nature and Science to cover papers in their own journals in their news sections.) As far as I can tell, that was the only story on the study. And now that it’s past 2 Eastern on Thursday, the Science embargo time, it doesn’t appear the Science study was covered at all. I’ll keep an eye out, and hope that Embargo Watch readers will do the same.

Perhaps the plan by Nature and Science to abolish themselves in favor of combining forces for a new journal — the subject of an April Fool’s story by John Travis — would eliminate this sort of problem.

Written by Ivan Oransky

April 1, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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