Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

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:

Our embargo policy is in place to ensure as much coverage of research [in our journal/by our society’s members] as possible.

This may divert attention from other important issues in science and medicine. Provided we have a reasonable interval between the release of material and the embargo time, it may also help reporters do a better job covering these studies.

However, policies that bar pre-publication publicity of scientists’ work can also have a chilling effect on the spread of scientific knowledge.

I’m taking aim here at short embargoes, the Ingelfinger Rule, and the effect that the embargo system has on enterprising journalism. (When it comes to that last point, journalists need to look in the mirror just as much as journals do, and this is a way to help them do that.) As I’ve noted before, there’s nothing wrong with self-interest. It’s when journals and societies aren’t upfront about that self-interest that I start to doubt their transparency.

I relied, as I often do, on Vincent Kiernan’s Embargoed Science. Please take a look:

Thanks to Nancy Lapid for help formatting my slides.


Written by Ivan Oransky

November 3, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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