Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

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):

Journalists:  Please note the new ATS embargo policy: As of this release, content under Articles in Press will no longer be under embargo once it appears online. The embargo date and time listed on the release coincides with the online release of the article covered.

As you’d imagine, I was more than a bit curious about why the society was changing its policy. I asked Keely Savoie, science writer and senior media liaison at the ATS:

At its base is simply the same desire we have always had to be as fair as we can to both the media and the scientists who publish in our journals. We are, of course, sensitive to feedback both formal and informal, and when it became clear that our former policy was having the opposite of its intended effect among the media, we began looking for ways to improve it. By working with our colleagues in other departments, we were able to implement this new policy, which we hope will satisfy the needs of all parties.

Well, consider me satisfied.

This is not the first time a journal or scientific society has changed its policy since Embargo Watch launched just shy of six months ago. The European Society of Human Genetics changed their similar “available but embargoed” policy about a month ago. And the American Diabetes Association said it was reviewing its policy, also similar, after a post on it.

I’ll of course send this post to press officers at Gastroenterology and CHEST, which also have “available but embargoed” polices, for comment.

In the meantime, I think I’ll have to go for a bottle of the kind of stuff that I won’t drink unless it’s been embargoed — a.k.a. in a bottle — for a while: a good Paso Robles Zinfandel.

Written by Ivan Oransky

August 10, 2010 at 11:01 am

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