Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

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:

One study, by Karen Duff and Dr. Scott A. Small and their colleagues at the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University Medical Center, was published on Wednesday in the journal PLoS One. The other, by Dr. Bradley T. Hyman, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, and his colleagues, is to be published in the journal Neuron.

So Discover reporter Valerie Ross — a former student of mine, I note proudly — went looking for the Neuron paper. When she couldn’t find it, she asked the Mass. General press office for a copy. No can do, the office said; that paper is emabargoed until February 23.

Ross thought that was odd, and so did I when she shared the case with me. Apparently, however, so did Mass. General, who wrote Ross back shortly thereafter:

We’ve received clarification from the journal that the embargo on his paper is not longer in force…

I’m not actually sure there was ever any embargo to begin with, however. Neuron hasn’t sent an embargoed release about the paper, at least not one that I’ve seen. And I can’t remember Neuron or its sister Cell Press journals ever sending out a release this long before a study is published. So perhaps the Ingelfinger Rule was in effect, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped Hyman from talking about the paper — and good for him.

Good for Neuron, too, for not insisting on whatever “embargo” they thought was in place. Other journals sometimes find reasons not to lift their embargoes when their studies are covered, although it’s hard to ignore New York Times stories.

I’ve asked Neuron publisher Cell Press to clarify what happened here. Cell Press’s press office, as I’ve pointed out before, is quite understaffed.

Update, 5:30 p.m. Eastern, 2/2/12: Cell Press tells us:

All media are welcome to report on Dr. Hyman’s paper. Any news organization interested in this research are encouraged to contact the authors directly. At this time Dr. Hyman’s paper is still in production at Cell Press. We will not be issuing a press release for this paper nor will we issue an embargo.

Please see an update on this post.

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 2, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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