Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Science Venter study on “synthetic cell” embargo broken

with one comment

When it rains, it pours, at least when it comes to embargo breaks, apparently. While I was conducting this interview with Daniel Carlat between noon and one today, two notices about early embargo lifts went out. One was about this ASCO Rituxan break, and here’s the other:

The AAAS Office of Public Programs is lifting the embargo, effective immediately, on the Science article “Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome,” by D. Gibson and colleagues, because this information has entered the public domain.

A summary of the article follows, and a copy of the manuscript is available at http://www.eurekalert.org/jrnls/sci/. The embargo is being lifted so that reporters may freely publish their coverage now. The rest of this week’s SciPak content will remain under embargo until 2 pm US ET today, 20 May.

I should note that at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, when I went to the Science site, all of the material from the May 21 issue seemed to be live.

I have an email into AAAS/EurekAlert to find out who actually broke the embargo, but this Belfast Telegraph story seems the likely culprit. However, Nature’s Brendan Maher, a former colleague of mine at The Scientist, noted what he called a “feral” press release on the study. And Alison McCook, another former colleague at The Scientist, notes that J. Craig Venter, who led the synthetic cell effort published in Science, met with Congress yesterday.

Stay tuned. It’s still early, anyone got any more breaks?

Update, 2:15 p.m. Eastern, 5/20/10: Interesting that Nature had prepared a whole section of opinions from prominent scientists on the Venter study. They lifted the embargo once Science did. This sort of coordination by one journal, based on another’s embargo, is interesting to watch.

Update, 2:25 p.m. Eastern, 5/20/10: Here’s Reuters’ coverage of the study.

Written by Ivan Oransky

May 20, 2010 at 1:34 pm

One Response

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  1. I was the one that alerted AAAS to the Belfast Telegraph article. Science Friday senior producer Annette Heist alerted me, since she knew I was working on the story. She sent me an email at 11:46 yesterday morning with the subject line “embargo break?”. The email contained a link to the Telegraph article. I tried to call Ginger Pinholster, head of public affairs for AAAS, but she was out and her cell phone was off. So I spoke with Kathleen Wren, who asked me to send her the link. She asked if I would consider ignoring holding back 2 hours until the official embargo lifted, and I said no. She asked me for 10 minutes to tell her boss, and I said OK. At 12:15 she called me back and said that AAAS was lifting the embargo.

    Our web site went live at 12:20 with a story I had written earlier that the web staff had already prepared to “publish.”

    I asked Annette how she had found the Telegrah article, and she said she had been doing research for the show she was producing on Venter’s work, and had stumbled across it.

    Joe Palca

    May 21, 2010 at 4:54 pm


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