Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Break an embargo? Lose access, says Hopkins

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jhmiOne of the issues that comes up fairly often on Embargo Watch is why embargo breakers aren’t sanctioned more frequently. Press officers seem to bend over backward to give news outlets — particularly big ones — the benefit of the doubt.

Well, apparently Johns Hopkins plans to give its policies some teeth. An email sent to its press list yesterday:


Hello from Johns Hopkins Medicine. Your name is currently on a list of journalists who receive embargoed press releases from JHM. The embargoes are set by peer-reviewed medical journals and should be taken seriously because our ability to give you advanced access to unpublished information depends on your agreement to honor the embargoes. In the past two years, we have had three embargoes broken. So, we have decided that if any journalist breaks our embargoes, we will move him or her to a list of recipients who receive copy only after embargoes have lifted. There’s no need for you to respond to this e-mail; it’s just meant to inform you of our new policy, which we will send reminders of periodically. Thanks for your consideration. Please know that we value our relationship with you.

I’ve asked Hopkins whether reporters will lose embargoed access on the first break, or if it would take a few, and whether it will matter if they were clearly inadvertent. I’ll update with anything I learn.

Here’s one break at Hopkins in the past two years that was due to miscommunication by the university’s press office and Cell Press, rather than being a reporter’s fault.

Update, 6 p.m. Eastern, 8/15/14: Hopkins’ Audrey Huang tells Embargo Watch:

We do switch reporters upon first break but they still get our news. Our goal in sending out this reminder yearly is to minimize the possibility of inadvertent breaks and to remind everyone that this is top of mind for us. We understand that inadvertent breaks do happen and are willing to reconsider on a per-case basis after communicating with the journal and the reporter.


Written by Ivan Oransky

August 13, 2014 at 10:28 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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