Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Archive for August 2010

The Mockingjay embargo: Just as difficult to manage as scientific ones

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Earlier this week, mediabistro’s Galley Cat reported that the Los Angeles Times had broken the embargo on the final book in Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” trilogy with a review of Mockingjay.

The book was embargoed for sale until midnight Monday night, while the LA Times review ran on the paper’s site during the day Monday. It’s unclear to Embargo Watch whether that review was in the Monday paper, which may mean it was online Sunday night.

On Sunday, Scholastic had tweeted:
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Written by Ivan Oransky

August 27, 2010 at 9:00 am

The retrobargo: European Society of Cardiology sends out an embargoed release hours after the embargo

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Notice anything strange about this email excerpt?

From: European Society of Cardiology [mailto: xxxx]
Sent: Monday, August 23, 2010 10:47 AM
To: [xxxx]
Subject: Breathing symptoms emerge as a key target of therapy in acute heart failure

Embargoed: 06.00hrs UK time MONDAY 23 AUGUST 2010

Here’s a hint: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

August 25, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

What scientific journals and societies can learn from Steve Buttry’s handling of the TBD launch

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It must be Transparency Week here at Embargo Watch.

Yesterday, PNAS editor in chief Randy Schekman bared nearly all in an editorial about a study of a potential link between viruses and chronic fatigue syndrome, explaining why the study had been held for publication for some weeks despite pressure.

Also yesterday, in an exhaustively detailed post, TBD director of community engagement Steve Buttry told the story of how the new website and TV station dedicated to news and community information for the Washington, DC area handled getting press attention for its launch. The post is remarkable for its transparency and play-by-play analysis, and should be required reading for all PR pros managing a launch.

What particularly caught my attention after Denise Graveline tipped me off to the post was this paragraph: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

August 24, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

PNAS lifts embargo on virus-chronic fatigue syndrome study after break, but the real story is the study’s delayed publication

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At 2:55 p.m. Eastern today, just five minutes before the embargo on this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) issue was set to lift, PNAS sent out a note to its press list saying that the embargo on one paper was being lifted early because of an embargo break.

I’m fuzzy on who broke the embargo — the only thing I can find is a PRNewswire release that went out about 2:30 — and why PNAS would bother lifting it five minutes early. I’ve emailed the journal’s press office for details and will update with anything I find out. [Update, 4:45 p.m. Eastern, 8/23/10: PNAS emailed back and confirmed that it was the PRNewswire release that prompted the early lift.]

In the study, researchers found bits of DNA related to murine leukemia viruses (MLV), which cause leukemia in mice, in the blood of a large percentage of people with chronic fatigue syndrome. When they looked at the blood of healthy blood donors, relatively few had that DNA on board.

The findings — which follow on others — are likely to bolster claims of a virus-fatigue syndrome link. MLV is a variant of xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV), which has been in the news lately as a potential link to prostate cancer as well as chronic fatigue syndrome. But those studies have been contradictory, so the new study could shed some light on an ongoing scientific investigation that some hope could lead to new targets for chronic fatigue syndrome targets.

That recent buzz brings me to what’s far more interesting, from an Embargo Watch perspective: An editorial accompanying the study by PNAS editor in chief Randy Schekman. Excerpt (I’ve added links to a relevant paper): Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

August 23, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Guardian breaks embargo on Science oil spill plume paper, reporter removed from EurekAlert access

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A reporter at The Guardian has been sanctioned by EurekAlert after her story about a Science paper detailing the oil plume still sitting in the Gulf of Mexico was reprinted on The Age newspaper’s website before the 2 p.m. Eastern embargo had lifted yesterday.

Science Press Package director Kathy Wren told me by email: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

August 20, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Yes, an advance online study is still in the public domain. You can’t embargo it

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I may be starting a trend here on Embargo Watch: Posts that begin with “Yes” and “No.”

Yesterday, in a post called “No, Society for General Microbiology, you cannot embargo something that has already been published,” I wondered why it would occur to anyone to put an embargo a study that had been available online for a few weeks. Today, after tracking down the origins of a Tuesday exclusive in USA Today, I found out that a university press officer did the same thing.

Here’s what happened: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

August 19, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

No, Society for General Microbiology, you cannot embargo something that has already been published

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Earlier this week, Alla Katsnelson — a former colleague of mine from The Scientist who’s now a reporter at Nature — emailed me, vexed about what seemed to her like an odd embargo. The Society for General Microbiology, which publishes the Journal of General Virology, had sent out an embargoed press release on EurekAlert about a paper in their September issue. From the release:

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have not only provided the first unequivocal evidence for the ‘hit-and-run hypothesis’ – explaining how some viruses might cause cancer and then mysteriously disappear – but have also shown how a vaccine could arrest them. Equivalent vaccines could help prevent not only known virus-induced human cancers, such as Burkitt’s lymphoma, but also cancers currently unsuspected of having a viral origin.

Sounds interesting, if not for a general audience (because it’s in mice), certainly for Nature‘s readers. Problem was, Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

August 18, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Nature lifts Samoa-Tonga tsunami “double earthquake” study embargo early after stories appear

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courtesy Nature

Nature has lifted the embargo on two papers in this week’s issue describing the seismic events that led to a tsunami that killed nearly 200 people in Samoa and Tonga last September, according to an email that went out from their press office earlier today:

Due to early reporting we are lifting the embargo on the below papers. The rest of this week’s Nature press release remains under embargo until 1800 London time (BST) today, Wednesday 18 August, but you may report on the below research now.

According to the journal’s press release: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

August 18, 2010 at 7:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

More weirdness around a Pew embargo, this time over broadband report

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Last week, I blogged about a bit of a “he said, she said” in which the Pew Charitable Trusts accused USA Today of breaking an embargo on a report on drug safety, but then didn’t seem that upset about it, probably because it wasn’t entirely clear what time the embargo actually lifted.

Today, on mediabistro’s FishBowlDC, here’s another difficult-to-parse embargo snafu involving Pew, Politico, and the Trust’s high-profile annual report on broadband use: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

August 12, 2010 at 2:52 pm

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American Thoracic Society changes its policy: No more “available but embargoed”

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When Embargo Watch launched in late February, one of the two posts that went live the very first day was “Good intentions, unintended consequences at American Thoracic Society.” In it, I expressed puzzlement at a policy that left studies in The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine available to any HighWire subscriber embargoed for two weeks following online publication. I wasn’t the only one. Scroll down to comments on that post for some thoughts that didn’t give the ATS the benefit of the doubt for good intentions, as I did.

I also said that Reuters Health would continue to uphold that policy for the time being, but that I’d reconsider “if competitors start running stories before we do.”

Well, I won’t have to reconsider anymore. This went out on top of a release from the ATS press office today (emphasis and underlining theirs):

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

August 10, 2010 at 11:01 am