Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Archive for November 2010

Answering to a higher authority: What’s the punishment for breaking a Vatican embargo?

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Many science and medical reporters may quake in fear of sanctions by journals and societies when they break embargoes. (Others just scoff.) But what happens when the Vatican is the one embargoing the material — and you’re the Vatican’s newspaper?

That’s the question here at Embargo Watch following the release of the Pope’s comments on condoms. In a new book, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times, Pope Benedict XVI said that male prostitutes who use the prophylactics are acting responsibly. (Today, the Pope extended his comments to women.)

Problem was, the book was embargoed until today, and the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, ran the excerpt on Saturday.

None of this seems to have made many in the Catholic blogosphere happy. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

November 23, 2010 at 11:09 am

Posted in Uncategorized

What’s going on at the Cell press office?

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Buried in an August 4 post about a short Cell Metabolism embargo was the fact that Cell Press employed a grand total of one press officer for their 28 journals.

Well, now they employ none.

Embargo Watch learned this week that press officer Cathleen Genova left at the end of October. There’s someone with other responsibilities filling in, but none of the Cell journals have been updated on EurekAlert — which Cell uses to press release their content — since then.

Apparently, an internal audit showed that very few people are using the Cell page on EurekAlert, so the publisher is evaluating its strategy. Whether that means they’ll stop embargoing content, embargo less of it, or do something altogether different is unclear.

I contacted the person filling in for Genova for comment, but haven’t heard back. [See update at the end of this post.]

Oddly, Cell Press put out a release just last week titled “Cell Press delivers the news:”

Announcing Cell DNA — Daily News Aggregator: A free daily news aggregation service in the life sciences

And I should also note that over at our sister blog, Retraction Watch, we don’t tend to have a lot of luck getting calls back from Cell editors.

Update, 9:15 p.m. Eastern, 11/23/10: Lisa Lyons, who has been filling in for Genova, responded today:

I have taken over most of Cathleen’s duties and I am not sure if she will be replaced by anyone else.

We are always evaluating processes, but would like to offer all research papers to press for coverage under embargo. Things should be back to normal this week.

I’ll keep an eye on this. Please let me know about your experiences working with Cell Press.

Written by Ivan Oransky

November 19, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

This week’s embargo breaks, celebrity edition: Facebook causes asthma, NRC Gulf oil spill report

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A few embargo breaks this week:

Science’s Science Insider reported that the embargo had been broken on a National Academies report on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It’s not clear who broke it, but the Academies released it early in response.

Then, FoxNews.com broke the embargo on a Lancet case report of a man who had an asthma attack after seeing how many men his girlfriend had friended on Facebook. (Hat tip, Elie Dolgin.) The story appeared here Wednesday, but is no longer working; they pulled it down after The Lancet contacted them. The site then posted this version as the embargo lifted yesterday at 6:30 p.m.

Now for the fun part. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

November 19, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Robert Scoble breaks an embargo, and apologizes for it

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Robert Scoble

I spend a lot of time on this blog questioning how press officers deal with embargo breaks. Today, a post about how a high-profile tech writer handles one of his own.

A tweet from Ben Kepes late Sunday night Eastern time: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

November 15, 2010 at 11:23 am

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Quid pro quo? American Cetacean Society tells freelancer he can only have a press pass if it’s a “mutually beneficial relationship”

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photo by eschipul via flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/eschipul/

Erik Vance, a freelancer in the Bay Area, is pissed. Witness a tweet he sent earlier today:

Denied press pass by the Cetacean Society ’cause I refused to guarantee them a story. Most disturbing line: “What are you gonna do for me?”

Vance just wanted to cover the American Cetacean Society’s 2010 conference, which begins tomorrow. (Cetaceans, for those of you who may not know, are whales, dolphins, and porpoises.) I asked him for some context for the tweet. Here’s his email to me: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

November 10, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Lancet appears to have changed its “two different embargo times” policy

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I wrote about a strange policy in March: The Lancet‘s releases used to lift at a minute after midnight UK time, unless you were on the east coast of the US, where they lifted 31 minutes earlier. That translates into 7:01 p.m. Eastern vs. 6:30 p.m. Eastern, and the policy was in place for the benefit of evening network newscasts.

It seems Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

November 10, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

German news outlet breaks embargo on UNESCO Science Report

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Email from UNESCO’s press office earlier this afternoon:

The embargo on the UNESCO Science Report has been broken in Germany today. Under these circumstances, UNESCO has decided to lift the embargo generally as of now.

Here’s the report site, although none of the links are live, and a report from AFP that’s time-stamped long after the embargo lift email went out. I assume the embargo wasn’t supposed to lift until tomorrow, which is apparently World Science Day for Peace and Development.

That’s really all I know. UNESCO hasn’t returned an email asking for details. A little crowdsourcing, please?

Hat tip to Amos Zeeberg.

Written by Ivan Oransky

November 9, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

No, the AP didn’t break that sex-hypertexting teens embargo

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photo by kiwanja via flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/kiwanja/

The Associated Press ran a story early this morning on a topic that is likely to get some buzz:  “Sex, drugs more common in hyper-texting teens,” read their headline. But on Twitter, an alert Embargo Watch reader alerted me to the fact that the press release for that Case Western-led study, being presented at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting, was embargoed until 12:15 p.m. Eastern. (Why that release is now visible to the public will become clear below.)

So, was this an embargo break by the AP? (Full disclosure: The story’s byline belongs to a friend and former Association of Health Care Journalists board colleague, Mike Stobbe.) Or was Case Western trying to embargo something that wasn’t actually embargoed? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

November 9, 2010 at 11:43 am

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Live from the University of Wisconsin-Madison: A new suggested language for embargo policies

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I have the pleasure this week of serving as biomedical writer in residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. One of my tasks was to deliver a public lecture, which I did yesterday on — wait for it — embargoes. It sparked a lively and informative — to me, anyway — discussion, and I thank those who attended and took part, as well as my gracious hosts.

My presentation is below. I welcome feedback on any and all of it, and in particular I want to draw Embargo Watch readers’ attention to slide 29, in which I suggest some alternative embargo policy rationale language that I find a lot more transparent than current policies: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

November 3, 2010 at 9:00 am

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Confusion reigns as Mount Sinai embargoes a peanut allergy study that’s already published

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On Friday morning, I was sifting through the electronic tables of contents at various journals, as I do most days, to pick stories to cover at Reuters Health. I came across what looked like an interesting study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology on whether moms who eat peanuts while pregnant are more likely to have kids with peanut allergies. JACI’s a highly ranked journal — the highest in its category, in fact — so I almost always pay attention to what’s there. I saved the PDF so it could be assigned.

Then, a few hours later, a member of my staff showed me a printout of a press release from Mount Sinai in New York about the study, apparently embargoed until just after midnight yesterday (Monday).

Needless to say, I had questions. Was this a case of “freely available but embargoed?” Or had someone just made a mistake? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

November 2, 2010 at 9:15 am

Posted in Uncategorized