Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Archive for February 2011

Catalyzed by Embargo Watch, AAS does away with “freely available but embargoed”

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Scientific societies must know that tomorrow will mark this week marked* Embargo Watch’s one-year anniversary. How else to explain the mad rush to join our honor roll?

OK, that’s a bit overstated, but forgive my feeling giddy. Here’s why: Read the rest of this entry »


Written by Ivan Oransky

February 25, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Oops! Neurology posts new issue early, lifts embargo

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At 9:58 a.m. Eastern Saturday, the American Academy of Neurology — which publishes the journal Neurology — sent out a mea culpa: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 21, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Update on Aeron Haworth and Ed Yong: An apology, accepted

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As most Embargo Watch readers will probably know, a post describing a tussle between blogger Ed Yong and press information officer (PIO) Aeron Haworth has garnered a lot of attention this week.

Because the comment thread on that post has become a bit, well, umanageable, and is also constrained by a design problem that is making old comments appear to have been in response to new ones, I wanted to call readers’ attention to two comments from the protagonists.

Yong posted this morning: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 16, 2011 at 9:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Cochrane Library lifts embargo on zinc for colds study early after a break

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The world is learning the latest evidence on whether zinc can treat the common cold about 90 minutes early today: In response to an embargo break, the Cochrane Library has lifted an embargo. From an email that went out today at 5:37 p.m. Eastern, an hour and 24 minutes before the scheduled embargo time: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 15, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

How to demonstrate you’re not about transparency — and piss off reporters — as a PIO

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Ed Yong, courtesy Ed Yong

Ed Yong just wanted to look at the data.

This past weekend, he found an intriguing embargoed press release about mummy toes and prosthetics, and realized that the “study” to which the release referred was actually just a Perspective in The Lancet. When he emailed the press officer who’d written the release, he learned that the actual data weren’t yet published, but that the Perspective was “peer reviewed using the data.”

Readers of this blog are probably familiar with Yong, science blogger extraordinaire. He writes the extremely popular — and award-winning, for good reason — Not Exactly Rocket Science blog at Discover.

So it won’t be a surprise to learn that Yong wanted more information. He understood that there wasn’t a typical peer-reviewed study published yet, but he wanted to at least speak with the author, whose contact information didn’t seem to be anywhere on the web. So he asked the press officer for those details.

That’s where the ridiculousness started, as Yong relates on his Posterous. The PIO, the University of Manchester’s Aeron Haworth, responded: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 14, 2011 at 10:55 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Why the New England Journal of Medicine’s handling of a spina bifida study embargo makes me doubt their good intentions

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On Friday, I received an email from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, headlined:

Fetal Surgery Takes a Huge Step Forward in Treating Children with Spina Bifida

This finding, according to the release, was being published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). On the third page, there were some specific data:

The current study reports data on 158 patients who were followed at least one year after surgery. Clinicians who were independent of the surgical teams and blinded (not informed which of the two surgeries a given child received) evaluated the children from the study at one year of age and again at age 30 months.

–At one year of age, 40 percent of the children in the prenatal surgery group had received a shunt, compared to 83 percent of the children in the postnatal group. During pregnancy, all the fetuses in the trial had hindbrain herniation. However, at age 12 months, one-third (36  percent) of the infants in the prenatal surgery group no longer had any evidence of hindbrain herniation, compared to only 4 percent in the postnatal surgery group.

–At age 30 months, children in the prenatal group had significantly better scores in measurements of motor function. While the ability to walk depends on the level of the spina bifida lesion, the study found a twofold increase in the proportion of children able to walk without crutches or other assistive devices—42 percent in the prenatal group compared to 21 percent in the postnatal group.

That all sounded worth looking into. But the release came with a strict embargo:

Please do not share this with anyone as it is still under embargo until 5pm on Wednesday.

There were two strange things about this release. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 10, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

AMA release fouled by internal glitch the week AP technical glitch breaks JAMA embargo

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For the second time in a month, an embargoed — well, sort of — press release has come back to bite an institution in the ass.

Last night, at 5:26 p.m. Eastern, the American Medical Association was forced to send this email, subject line “Note from AMA regarding technical glitch,” to its press list after sending out a release that should have been marked embargoed: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 3, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized