Science does the right thing, releasing XMRV-chronic fatigue material early, no sanctions for WSJ
Over at our sister blog, Retraction Watch, we report today on an Expression of Concern by Science about a 2009 paper purporting to link XMRV, or xenotropic murine leukemia-related virus, to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). You can find details of that notice there. But Embargo Watch wanted to take the opportunity to commend Science for doing the right thing by releasing this material — originally scheduled for June 2’s issue — early.
As we note on Retraction Watch, Science told us it was a Wall Street Journal story that ran today that made them release the material early. The story reported that the authors of the 2009 study had refused to retract their work despite a request from Science:
Once that news story was published we felt it would be most useful to journalists, scientists and the public, including doctors and patients whose lives have been affected by chronic fatigue syndrome, to make the information being published in the journal available right away.
This was not an embargo break, explained Science, and the WSJ will not face any sanctions:
No, we had not yet even routed the Science Press Package notice on this story, and further we have no evidence that the Wall Street Journal reporter obtained any information from us whatsoever. They seem to have acted upon an independent tip.
Science did the right thing here, just as they did with the replication of Harvard psychologist Marc Hauser’s questioned paper in April. There’s a huge amount of interest in this subject, and this paper in particular, so releasing it as quickly as possible is a good move.
Even better, they acknowledge that the WSJ did good old-fashioned reporting, and didn’t just reverse-engineer a scoop once they’d seen this week’s embargoed press materials. I’ve criticized Science before for how they’ve handled these sorts of situations, but I applaud their recent decisions and transparency.