Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Society vs. Society? American Thoracic Society breaks American Heart Association embargo

with one comment

Since Embargo Watch was launched early last year, there has been at least one case of an unintentional embargo break by a scientific society that posted their own material publicly too early. Today, we bring you the case of a scientific society that has broken another society’s embargo.

This went out at about 1:30 Eastern today from the American Heart Association:


The embargo on the study: “Randomized Clinical Trial of Aspirin and Simvastatin for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension: ASA-STAT” has been lifted. The article is now posted online in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The study was planned to publish simultaneously with an abstract presenting at 4 pm ET today at the American Thoracic Society’s International Conference in Denver. A news release on the abstract was  posted on the ATS website prior to the embargo lifting.

The original embargo was 4 pm ET, today, May 18, 2011.

The American Heart Association did not issue a news release on this study.

It turns out this is a direct consequence of the strange embargo policy we posted on yesterday. In a nutshell, ATS had posted some 5,000 abstracts on their site, unembargoed. Thirty of those, however, were subject to an additional condition: The abstracts themselves weren’t embargoed, but the researchers were told only to speak to reporters who agreed not to publish until a particular time.

I found this policy bizarre. It turns out I wasn’t the only one, I found out when I asked ATS whether the release had gone up on their site in error:

No, it was part of the same suite of releases that you noted earlier; UPenn and AHA made the case that the embargo had been broken because the site was not password protected and asked if they could post it early.  It seemed unfair to not let them in light of the fact that it had been up on our site.

Well, yes. In case you didn’t follow that, the embargo break was of one of the 30 “sort of embargoed” studies.

The problem with embargoing freely available material is…well, at this point I really shouldn’t have to finish that sentence. I just hope that every society that chooses to do it will read this post, and this one, and another I’ll put up today or tomorrow, as soon as I have time, that demonstrates what happens when they try it.

The short attention span version: Bad things, if you’re trying to maintain an embargo.

Hat tip: Liz Scherer

Written by Ivan Oransky

May 18, 2011 at 2:25 pm

One Response

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  1. alternative attention span version: doctors don’t always heed other doctors’ advice

    Elaine Schattner, MD

    May 18, 2011 at 3:03 pm

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