Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Out-foxing UK Sunday papers: ESHRE lifts IVF study embargo early in anticipation of coverage

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The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) has apparently had enough of embargo breaks by Sunday papers in the UK, and is fighting back.

This morning, ESHRE press officer Hanna Hanssen sent the following to her media list:

EMBARGO LIFT, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: The first babies born in the world’s first study to assess comprehensive genetic screening before IVF

The embargo originally set for Sunday 17 October 18:01 Eastern US time/ Monday 18 October 00:01 CET has been lifted. The below press release is for immediate release. After receiving indications that a certain UK Sunday Paper was planning to break the embargo by covering the story on Sunday.

A double first: the first babies born in the world’s first study to assess comprehensive genetic screening before IVF

Births in Italy and Germany from eggs tested by CGH

Two women taking part in the world’s first controlled study of a comprehensive genetic screening test before IVF have given birth to healthy babies. The babies, twin girls born in Germany in June and a singleton boy born in Italy in September, are the first deliveries in a pilot study of comparative genomic hybridisation (CGH) by microarray, a new method of screening oocytes for IVF for a full range of chromosomal disorders.

Dr Cristina Magli, embryologist at the SISMER Centre in Bologna, one of the two centres taking part in the trial, said: ” All the babies and their mothers are doing very well in terms of weight and overall developmental performance.”

[snip]

There are two firsts in the release, but I will add another: This appears to be the first time in Embargo Watch history that a journal or society has lifted an embargo in anticipation of coverage by a media outlet. (Admittedly, Embargo Watch is only eight months old. But still.)

It’s an aggressive, and noteworthy, approach. You may recall that ESHRE and one Sunday UK paper, the Sunday Times, had a dustup in June over a study presented at the society’s annual conference in Rome. The reporter on that story, Jonathan Leake, however, noted that the abstract in question had been freely available on the ESHRE conference site before the embargo was scheduled to lift.

It’s not clear which paper is running the IVF story Sunday,  but sources suggested it wasn’t the Sunday Times.

I’d be interested in hearing about other cases like this, if they’re out there.

Update, 11:00 a.m. Eastern, 10/15/10: I’ve learned that although ESHRE did not intend to send the release to Sunday papers, it in fact sent the embargoed material to several of them because of some sort of technical glitch. They blamed such a glitch for the fact that abstracts were available before the embargo lifted in June, too. Also important to note is that the data being described has not been peer-reviewed, as far as I can tell.

Written by Ivan Oransky

October 15, 2010 at 9:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Hi Ivan

    I asked ESHRE to explain why they have blamed us for something we know nothing about. Below is what they sent back. It makes clear the problem started with ESHRE mistakenly sending the press release out to Sunday papers in the first place – something they did not make clear when lifting the embargo.

    I did not get the release and nor did anyone else here so far as I know.

    The key point is that the press release simply accused an unknown Sunday paper of breaking an embargo – but did not admit that the whole problem was generated by their sending the press release to the wrong people in the first place.

    It seems quite outrageous to blame journalists for an error that began with their press office. But then ESHRE has a history of that.

    Jonathan

    ESHRE’s email

    From: Hanna Hanssen [mailto:hanna@eshre.eu]
    Sent: 15 October 2010 14:29
    To: Leake, Jonathan
    Subject: RE: The Sunday Times

    Dear Jonathan,

    I have been told by a source that it was the Sunday Times, but I put no blame on anybody, since I am not sure who received the press release. I have been using an internet based database for this press release and apparently several Sunday papers received the release, although they shouldn’t have. So several Sunday papers apparently planned to cover it although there was a clear embargo.
    There is not much more I can say to that.
    Best wishes
    Hanna

    Jonathan Leake

    October 15, 2010 at 7:29 pm


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