Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Here’s the rest of the embargoed Embargo Watch story

with one comment

plos ntdEarlier today, some Embargo Watch readers may have seen a post about part of a story involving the tsetse fly genome. Now the whole story can be told.

The earlier post went live when a Science study did. In the press materials, that study was accompanied by this note:

Special Note: For related research on this topic from PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases (nine studies), PLOS ONE (one study), and PLOS Genetics (one study), please contact Jeri Marie Wright, Publications Manager, PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases at [redacted] or [redacted]. Please note that this content is embargoed until 5pm EDT on Thursday, 24 April. Reporters interested in writing stories that reference the work in Science by Attardo et al. and any from among the papers in PLOS journals should please wait to post stories until thePLOS embargo lift time, 5pm EDT, Thursday 24 April. Meanwhile, reporters whose coverage on the topic focuses solely on the report inScience by Attardo et al. may publish their articles at the normal embargo lift time, 2pm EDT, Thursday 24 April.

This seems at best silly, and will probably be read by people even more cynical than I am as a clumsy way to tell reporters exactly what their stories should include. It’s not that, of course; a media outlet can just decide to wait.

Still, why didn’t all the studies go live at the same time? Journals — including Scienceroutinely move up their embargoes so that reporters can tell a fuller story. (It doesn’t generally work the other way around; journals don’t seem to think it’s fair to push embargo times later given the agreements they have with reporters.) Why didn’t PLOS?

The other day, PLOS’s Jeri Marie Wright told Embargo Watch:

Unfortunately, it’s currently difficult for our production department to move up the publication time for specific articles, particularly when coordinating across multiple journals (in this case, eleven articles appearing in three journals). Our standard publication time is 5:00PM EDT.  We’ve heard concerns about our embargo time before, and we are working diligently as an organization to move our publication time up to 11:00AM PT. This organization-wide change will unfortunately not take place prior to the publication of the below-mentioned articles.

And then yesterday, Wright wrote:

While we were not able to publish all 11 of the articles in the PLOS Collection at 11am Pacific, we have just been able to move one of the papers, the Editorial for the series, to coincide with the publication of the article is Science in an effort to help reporters cover more of the story.

That’s why my earlier post was able to refer to the editorial — which referred to eight papers no one but credentialed media could read at the time.

PLOS has had issues coordinating embargo times before. I don’t see any nefarious intent here, and they’re hardly the only publisher with those problems, but I am once again forced to wonder why all content management systems can’t include something like the WordPress scheduling function that allowed me to post this and the earlier post exactly when their embargoes lifted.


Written by Ivan Oransky

April 24, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. I know of three major open source CMS systems – WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and about a dozen of paid for CMS systems, and all of them have the ability schedule publication. Some are more sophistacated than others, but it’s pretty much a required funciont in a CMS system now adays. If a journal is using one that doesn’t have that functionality, I’ll bet it’s pretty old.

    teflaime (@teflaime)

    April 25, 2014 at 2:34 pm

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