Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

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:

I wanted to let you know that we have lifted the embargo on the PLoS ONE paper, Rivaling the World’s Smallest Reptiles: Discovery of Miniaturized and Microendemic New Species of Leaf Chameleons.  It turns out a media company started offering the pictures of the miniaturized chameleons publicly today. This is probably where the Daily Mail got the images. Given the circumstances, I made the decision to lift the embargo.

The Daily Mail pictures credit Animal Press/Barcroft Media. Barcroft told me this morning that they received the images from another agency, which didn’t mention any embargo, so they sent them out to their clients. At that point, they heard from various people that there was an embargo, but it was unclear when. One press release they saw said midnight EST Wednesday (this morning), while the PLoS ONE release said 5 p.m. Eastern.

So they tried to rectify a problem that was none of their doing, and sent out a kill notice and asked their clients to pull down the pictures. Not everyone did, it would appear.

But it’s not clear the Daily Mail — which has certainly shown up on Embargo Watch before — did anything wrong here. Their story doesn’t say anything about the paper in PLoS ONE, so if they got all of their information without access to the embargoed material, they seem to have a scoop not because they broke an embargo but because someone forgot to tell the original photo agency that there was any embargo.

Hat tip: Hannah Waters

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 15, 2012 at 9:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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