Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Confusion results in broken embargo on Annals of Internal Medicine study on surviving cardiac arrest

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Stop, my beating heart: On the day I ask what it takes to get an embargo lifted early, one journal answers. Sometimes, a widely distributed press release is enough.

At 2:39 Eastern today, the Annals of Internal Medicine sent an email to its press list that included the following:

The following study is being released early online at www.annals.org. Stories can be posted immediately, as there is no embargo for this article. Originally slated for the July 6 issue of Annals, this article was posted early by the author institution.

The original release appears to have been taken down, but it can be read here on PhysOrg.com, and here’s the study, about whether where you live determines whether you’ll survive a cardiac arrest out of the hospital.

I asked the journal what happened.

It turns out the journal’s production department gave the university the wrong embargo date — something I might have guessed from the fact that the release said the June issue, given that the Annals are published twice a month. The university release then went out without anyone talking to the journal’s press office. When that office realized what had happened, they asked to have the study posted as quickly as possible, and sent the note to its media list. (The journal is usually pretty good, I should note, at getting embargoed materials into reporters’ hands a week before it’s going to be published.)

Given the circumstances, lifting the embargo early seems like the right call to me, and I can’t see anyone but a system with a fair number of moving parts at fault here.

There have been a few other cases of university press releases breaking embargoes, or at least almost breaking them, since Embargo Watch was born in late February: The University of Utah posted a release about a Science paper on whole-genome sequencing a day early; Science did not lift the embargo early but asked the university to take down the release. Another university sent out a release about a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) without noting the embargo; PNAS was “more than a little miffed” but didn’t lift the embargo after the university clarified their release quickly.

Written by Ivan Oransky

June 1, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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