Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Yet more on the International AIDS Society tenofovir anti-HIV microbicide incident

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Despite three different posts already about the response to a Financial Times story on Science study of a tenofovir-based microbicide gel designed to prevent HIV infection, it turns out there is at least one more angle worth mentioning: The International AIDS Society (IAS) conference, where the Science results were presented, practices a “freely available but embargoed” policy.

The IAS abstracts were available to the public last Saturday, July 17, but reporters who had agreed to the embargo policy for the conference couldn’t run with anything until each abstract was presented. Bloomberg’s Kristen Hallam pointed this out today on the Association of Health Care Journalists‘ listserv (again quoted with permission):

One thing that has been lost in the focus on the break is the conference’s embargo policy, period. The abstracts all went live on the website for anyone to see on Saturday. But media who had agreed to an embargo policy weren’t able to publish information from the abstracts until the start of the presentation at the conference. As a result, you had financial analysts and investors discussing and trading on information that journalists couldn’t publish. This isn’t a new issue, but it’s a serious one. There was also a circumcison study in PLoS Medicine that was embargoed (by PLoS) for a time AFTER it was presented, in conflict with the conference’s embargo policy. PLoS lifted its embargo early. So it wasn’t just the FT story that caused frustration.

I’ve written about these baffling policies before, and most recently was happy to report that the European Society of Human Genetics had decided to change theirs in response to an Embargo Watch post. I’ve contacted the IAS to see if this will be part of their embargo policy review they said they’d be conducting.

Written by Ivan Oransky

July 23, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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