PLoS responds to questions about its embargo policy
I’ve posted two items in the past week that involve the PLoS embargo policy — one about a break by an unknown outlet, and the other about the policy itself, which seems to allow some organizations to post stories before the embargo has lifted, without breaking the embargo. I had asked the PLoS press office for some comment before I pushed both of those posts live, but hadn’t heard yet.
Yesterday, PLoS Medicine editorial manager Andrew Hyde responded by email. (One note: The reporter I quoted anonymously was not a Reuters colleague, which he suggests below.)
Sorry that I was unable to get back to you more quickly about the PLoS Medicine paper by Danuta Skowronski and colleagues, which appears to have been covered by the Vancouver Sun ahead of the embargo noted in the press release.
In the blog you picked up on the fact that the articles sometimes appear live on the journal sites ahead of the media embargo.
As you may have seen in press releases for all of the PLoS journals, we provide the link to the freely available paper and encourage journalists and bloggers to include this link in their coverage. We emphasize to journalists, bloggers and the wider public that our articles are free for anyone to read, download and distribute. This is in keeping with one of the core principles of PLoS to engage the interest and imagination of the public in science.
The embargo and the link to the related articles are not coordinated automatically, so we push articles live slightly ahead of time in order to ensure that they are available when the embargo ends and when any news and blog coverage linking to them appears.
I appreciate the frustration of the Reuters journalist mentioned in your blog. I just want to emphasize that we don’t use embargos with the intention of frustrating journalists, or to artificially generate hype around articles. We try and use embargos to coordinate the appearance of any news and blog coverage with the availability of the PLoS article so that your readers can read the original research for themselves if they choose to do so.
We want to ensure a level playing field for the reporters on our press list. When a potential embargo break is spotted we investigate, lift the embargo if appropriate, and notify the press list. However, this requires us to monitor news and blog coverage and sometimes we don’t spot embargo breaks until after the event.
Please feel free to ask if you have any other questions about PLoS embargo policy. I’d appreciate any other feedback that you have to try and make sure it works better for all concerned.
I thanked Andrew for his response, which I think helps clarify some of the points I’ve raised. Since he asked for feedback, I asked him why the go-live time on studies can’t be the same as the emabrgo time, which is standard practice at other journals. I’ll let you know what he says.