Confusion at PNAS as unpublished dinosaur nest paper gets coverage. Plus: Fill our their survey!
This morning, a group of science writers added me to a conversation on Twitter about a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that was being widely covered by news outlets, but didn’t seem to have been published yet. The paper apparently claimed evidence of the oldest dinosaur nest yet found.
I assumed — incorrectly, as it turns out — that this was yet another case of the vexing PNAS problem, in which many of the papers that come off embargo on Mondays actually aren’t available on the PNAS site. That is irritating for reporters who want to link to papers, readers who want to learn more about studies, and authors who want to be able to discuss their work.
In fact, however, there seems to have simply been an error. The paper didn’t make it into the embargoed press list or the Early Edition table of contents, and yet this doesn’t seem to have been an embargo break.
Freelance science writer Lucas Brouwers tells Embargo Watch:
I saw someone tweet about the dinosaur nurseries, and came across multiple stories in major outlets (Guardian, Fox, up towards 82 currently published stories). But as I’m writing this (16:02 +1 GMT), PNAS has not released the paper yet.
One of the authors (David Evans) confirmed to me that the paper should have been released by PNAS by now, but it hadn’t. PNAS had contacted them and told them the paper will be released some time today.
PNAS confirmed today’s publication date for me, and said that
The dinosaur paper was published this week at the author’s request.
I’m still a bit fuzzy on what happened here. If the author is right — and the fact that PNAS isn’t treating this like an embargo break suggests he is — then what does it mean that the paper was published “at the author’s request?” I’ll try to find out more.
In related news, PNAS is surveying reporters about their media outreach efforts. When I fill out the survey — which I’d encourage all journalists to do — I’ll ask them to eliminate the “PNAS problem” once and for all. Their site is run by HighWire, which I know has that capability based on previous coverage.
Update: Here’s the paper.