Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

A Nature Publishing Group journal, American Journal of Gastroenterology, joins the short embargo parade; The Lancet keeps the beat

with 3 comments

courtesy Nature Publishing Group

As regular Embargo Watch readers know, I’ve been making note of short embargoes whenever I see them. I’m trying to square such short embargoes with the notion that embargoes help reporters do a better job.

For my purposes, “short” = “less than 24 hours,” which many may rightfully see as a low bar. Still, I have to start somewhere.

The Lancet continued its streak this week, sending out a press release at 6:53 a.m. Eastern Monday about a study on fibrates embargoed until 6:30 p.m. Eastern Monday. For some outlets, that actually meant a 7 p.m. embargo time — find out more here — but either way, it’s basically 12 hours. The study did get some coverage; here’s MedPage Today’s version. Here’s ours for our professional wire (you’ll need to be a subscriber to access it).

This week also saw a new entrant: The American Journal of Gastroenterology, published by Nature Publishing Group on behalf of the American College of Gastroenterology. The journal came close to 24 hours, but not quite, when Nature‘s press office sent out a press release about this study on misdiagnoses in patients with Barrett’s esophagus at 12:32 p.m. Eastern Monday, embargoed until 10:30 a.m. Eastern Tuesday. That’s just shy of 22 hours.

The Nature embargo policy is not as explicit as those of The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine about why reporting benefits from embargoes. The closest it comes:

The Nature journals believe that their media embargo serves scientists, authors, journalists and the public. Our policy is to release information about our content in a way that provides fair and equal access to the media, allowing it to provide informed comment based on the complete and final version of the paper that is to be published. Authors and their institutions’ press offices are able then to interact with the media ahead of publication, and benefit from the subsequent coverage.

My sense is that for journals such as The American Journal of Gastroenterology that Nature Publishing Group is producing on a society’s behalf, the press office is probably less able to keep things moving in a timely way. And also worth noting that since Embargo Watch began in late February, I haven’t seen any other short embargoes from Nature.

I asked Nature Publishing Group head of press Ruth Francis about the short embargo, but she declined comment.

See a short embargo? Drop me a line. And feel free to send the embargo racer my advice on the subject (see end of this post.)


Written by Ivan Oransky

May 12, 2010 at 12:20 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Nature and the Nature journals (any journal published by NPG with “Nature” in the title) share editorial policies (which include embargoes) although they are editorially independent publications.

    NPG also publishes a largeish number of other journals, many for societies. These journals do not share editorial policies with the Nature journals. Their editorial policies are set by their societies or by other groups as stated in each journal.

    There is nothing in your post to indicate that the journal you discuss has any formal connection with the Nature journals, but I want to ensure that your readers are aware of this fact.

    Disclaimer: I am a senior editor at Nature and am closely involved in setting and maintaining the editorial policies of the Nature journals.


    May 12, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    • Thanks for the comment and clarification, Maxine. I felt that the NPG connection is relevant given that it was the NPG press office that issued the embargoed release.


      May 12, 2010 at 2:55 pm

  2. You are welcome, Ivan!


    May 13, 2010 at 7:12 am

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