Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

NEJM lifts embargo on blindness gene therapy study early after BBC breaks it

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nejmThe New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) lifted the embargo early yesterday on a study of a rare form of blindness following a break by the BBC.

From a note sent to the journal’s media list yesterday just before noon Eastern (links added):

Due to an embargo break by the BBC, the embargo is lifted immediately on:

Original Article: Long-Term Effect of Gene Therapy on Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis
James W.B. Bainbridge, Ph.D., F.R.C.Ophth., UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, University College, and Moorfields Eye Hospital, City Road, EC1V 2PD — both in London, UK

Editorial: Long-Term Effects of Retinal Gene Therapy in Childhood Blindness
Alan F. Wright, M.B., Ch.B., Ph.D., the MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

It turns out this was one of two studies by different groups with similar findings being presented at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology meeting in Denver. Both were being published by NEJM, one — by Jacobson et al — on Sunday at 5:15 p.m. Eastern, and the other — by Bainbridge et al — on Monday at 5:45 p.m. Eastern. At least one news outlet covered just the Jacobson story on Sunday, but the BBC mentioned both in a story out Monday before the embargo lifted.

It’s unclear what prompted the BBC to run the story before the embargo, but news organizations are often frustrated by not being able to tell the whole story when related papers come out in close succession. That has prompted some journals to move embargoes up.

In this case, however, it was the scientific society controlling the times. NEJM tells Embargo Watch:

We followed the embargoes set by the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). The material was scheduled for presentation at their annual meeting. This is our standard procedure for articles that are published to coincide with meeting presentations.

Asked whether the BBC would face sanctions, the journal said it had contacted the news organization but had not heard back by late yesterday.

Hat tip: Tina Saey

Written by Ivan Oransky

May 5, 2015 at 9:30 am

Posted in nejm embargoes

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