Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Shocking: British press breaks embargo on IARC cell phones-brain tumor study

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I probably should have written this post last week, so it would be ready to push live as soon as someone inevitably broke the embargo on the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) new study on cell phone use and cancer. But I didn’t — Naivete? Misplaced optimism? — which means I’m spending part of Sunday morning doing it.

The study by IARC, a World Health Organization agency, was embargoed until 1:30 a.m. Paris time on May 18th, or 7:30 p.m. Eastern on Monday the 17th. The first story I’ve found on Google News was posted by the Telegraph in the UK at 8 a.m.  BST Saturday, nearly three days before the embargo. A number of others followed; by 10:30 a.m. Eastern Sunday, there were at least six, plus a press release from the Mobile Manufacturers Forum.

Here’s Reuters’ coverage, posted after all of the others made it unreasonable to continue to uphold the embargo, which the IARC has not officially lifted. The study, as are any of this subject, is likely to draw a lot of attention, although as my colleague Kate Kelland reports, the results are inconclusive.

Writing about studies the week they’re going to be published is nothing new for the UK’s Sunday papers, of course; this was the subject of a good discussion on an early Embargo Watch post. Still, until we know which papers had access to the embargoed IARC material, we can’t say whether this was a break deserving of sanctions, or just one that should have led to the IARC lifting the embargo early so that everyone who agreed to it weren’t the ones being punished.

I’ve emailed the IARC press office, based in Paris, and will update if I hear anything. In the meantime, I will leave you with another Frenchman expressing shock, courtesy of IMDb:

Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
Captain Renault: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
[a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.
Captain Renault: Everybody out at once!

That’s from Casablanca, of course.

See an update, posted Monday the 17th.


Written by Ivan Oransky

May 16, 2010 at 11:34 am

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