Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

A tally of April’s wild and woolly embargo breaks, capped by a publisher error at JNCI

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The subject line of an email from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute yesterday:

JNCI Study: Embargo on Radiation Study Lifted Early. Feel Free to Publish Anytime.

This is the science journal equivalent of “Smoke ’em if you got ’em.” Which is probably the wrong metaphor for a cancer journal.

In any case, JNCI tells Embargo Watch that the online team that their publisher, Oxford University Press, broke the embargo accidentally by posting the study early.

That capped a busy April for embargo breaks. We chronicled seven, including that one:

  • Bloomberg accidentally broke one on an American Association for Cancer Research study
  • MedPage Today lost access to the American College of Cardiology’s press room temporarily after an unintentional break of the PARTNER study embargo
  • The New York Times broke one on a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study on multi-tasking
  • The American Academy of Neurology lifted one early on a study of laquinimod for multiple sclerosis after a Wall Street investment firm broke it
  • One Wednesday saw two breaks, one of a Nature article and one of a study in the American Journal of Public Health

We also covered two early lifts that weren’t because of embargo breaks. One was of a study replicating questioned results by Harvard’s Marc Hauser, because Science said the circumstances had been widely reported, and one because The New York Times got a good old-fashioned scoop before the study had even been released under embargo.

Those seven probably aren’t all of the breaks that happened this month. There were several other tips I didn’t have time to follow up on, and there are likely even more than that. And I can’t say definitively whether this is a particularly busy month, although it feels like one.

Still, I’m often asked whether I think embargo breaks are on the rise, so I figured I’d catalog this month’s. Of course, there’s still a day left…

Written by Ivan Oransky

April 29, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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