Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Archive for February 2012

The envelope, please: The history of the Oscars and embargoes

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Oscar statue at Kodak Theater, by PopCultureGeek via Flickr http://flic.kr/p/9kNqde

Anyone who has watched the Oscars, which will be awarded tonight, is familiar with the phrase “the envelope, please.” But things weren’t always kept secret, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reminds us. For the first Academy Awards, in 1929: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 26, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

PLoS ONE lifts tiny Madagascar chameleon study embargo early after Daily Mail story, confusion on images

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PLoS ONE has lifted the embargo early on a paper describing a newly discovered species of chameleon, among the world’s smallest, after the Daily Mail ran a story more than 24 hours before the scheduled embargo time of 5 p.m. Eastern today.

I asked PLoS’ Jen Laloup about the story yesterday afternoon, and they told me they were investigating what had happened. At 6:47 p.m. Eastern yesterday, they wrote me again: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 15, 2012 at 9:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine plays “freely available but embargoed” game — with a Groundhog Day twist

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The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s (SMFM’s) annual meeting was last week in Dallas, and, as many societies do, the press officers working for “the pregnancy meeting” put out a number of releases about what would be presented there.

But unlike many societies, who understand what an embargo means, the SMFM decided it would be fine to post those releases publicly before the meeting, but call them “embargoed.”

That left Rachael Rettner, a former student of mine, a bit perplexed. So she sent me a message, and I in turn sent Bendure PR a note to ask for clarification. The response didn’t actually clear anything up: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 14, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Ingelfinger Rule, be damned: Purdue press-releases football concussions study that isn’t published yet

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Last week, a few days before the Super Bowl, a Purdue University press officer sent veteran health and science reporter Nancy Shute a press release about what looked like an interesting study. Titled “Football findings suggest concussions caused by series of hits,” the release was about work by Purdue’s Eric Nauman and colleagues, set to be published in the Journal of Biomechanics.

Shute was intrigued enough by the release to go look for the paper. (She knows as well as I do that reporting on studies from press releases — which some of our competitors seem to do — is journalistic malpractice.) But she couldn’t find it anywhere on the journal’s site, so she asked Emil Venere, the press officer, what was going on.

The paper hadn’t been posted yet, Venere told her. The journal had accepted it, but it might be weeks before it’s posted. Purdue had inquiries about it already, and didn’t feel they could wait.

Hmm, I thought. Purdue, with the willing participation of one of its scientists, was promoting a study that wasn’t published yet. Journals frown on that sort of thing, citing the Ingelfinger Rule, which basically says that scientists who seek publicity for their work before it appears in print (or online) won’t have that work published in their journals. The rule is often over-interpreted by scientists, who refuse to talk to reporters about their research for fear of losing a tenure- or grant-determining paper.

So I asked Venere whether the journal had green-lighted the release. Venere sent me the paper, and said by email: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 9, 2012 at 9:30 am

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Embargoes and exclusives don’t mix: New York Times story about Neuron study reveals a problem

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As any reporter who has tried to talk to a scientist can tell you, here’s what usually happens when journalists find out about a paper that’s going to be published. First, most of the time, scientists will be afraid to talk to you because of the Ingelfinger Rule, the one that says journals may yank studies discussed before they appear in print. Second, the journal won’t confirm the existence of the manuscript, or if they do, they’ll tell you it’s subject to the same embargo you agreed to with them.

What then usually happens is that if you go ahead with your fair-and-square scoop, but clearly didn’t have any help or information from embargoed material, the journal will sigh but release the study to everyone. The scientist won’t be sanctioned as long as he or she didn’t actively pursue coverage, and the reporter won’t be sanctioned because he or she hadn’t broken any embargo.

But that’s not quite what happened during the reporting of a story about Alzheimer’s research that appeared in the New York Times this week. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 3, 2012 at 10:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Neuron won’t enforce “embargo” after New York Times reports on Alzheimer’s study

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If a paper is covered before it’s even gone out to journalists under embargo, can it be embargoed?

The answer, as in so many things embargo-related, is: It depends.

This morning, in a story titled “Path is found for the spread of Alzheimer’s,” the New York Times reported on two studies: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 2, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized