Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

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Top Embargo Watch posts of 2010, and a short wish list for 2011

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Bronze statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, by sculptor Lorenzo Coullaut Valera, at the Plaza de España in Madrid. Photo by Zaqarbal via Wikimedia

At the risk of committing self-plagiarism, I’m doing the same thing here that I just did on Embargo Watch’s sister blog, Retraction Watch. (I’m even using the same picture.)

Embargo Watch is the older sibling, having launched in late February. It too has kept me busy, with 167 posts, also about four per week.

Here are the top five posts, followed by three wishes: Read the rest of this entry »

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Written by Ivan Oransky

December 31, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Scrap embargoes? Careful what you wish for, says longtime PR pro

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Brian Reid

Brian Reid

On Tuesday, Vox posted what I called my “embargo manifesto.” I’ve been pleased to see it generate substantial discussion, including disagreement and criticism, on social media. And I’m also pleased to present this guest post from Brian Reid, a former reporter for Bloomberg who’s now a director at PR/communications firm W2O, responding to the piece.

Reading Ivan Oransky’s well-thought out missive against the use of embargoes in scientific and medical communication reminded me of the Winston Churchill chestnut about democracy: It’s the worst form of government, except for all of the others. The embargo system, in which vetted reporters receive additional time to assess and report complex information, in return for agreeing not to publish before a certain time, is also the worst system, except for all of the others.

In Oransky’s view, the current system encourages hype, discourages context and empowers journals and corporations to the detriment of reporters and, particularly, their audiences. Much of that criticism is spot-on.

But what would the world of medical reporting look like if embargoes went away? Certainly different, but probably not better. Here’s what you’d get every Wednesday at 5 p.m. (when the New England Journal of Medicine goes public): Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

December 1, 2016 at 8:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Nobelist Linda Buck retracts two studies on olfactory networks — and the news is embargoed

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Well, it’s happened: The Embargo Watch and Retraction Watch worlds have collided. I had initially figured on two posts here, but it soon became clear that how journals were handling these retractions, using embargoes, was central to both. So this is being cross-posted on both blogs.

Linda Buck, who shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, has retracted two papers published in 2005 and 2006. Both retractions — one in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and one in Science — appear online today.

The papers describe how nerves that carry information about scents connect from the nose to the olfactory bulb, where they are processed. They were published after the 2004 Nobel, which was for discoveries “of odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system.”

The retractions come two and a half years after Buck retracted a 2001 Nature paper co-authored with Zhihua Zou, a post-doc in her then-Harvard lab. She’s been at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center since 2002, and is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. In 2008, Nature’s news section reported:

Harvard Medical School has formed an ad hoc committee to review the retraction, and Buck has asked the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to review two later publications on which Zou was the lead author. “It’s disappointing of course,” says Buck. “The important thing is to correct the literature.”

The PNAS and Science retractions are of those two later publications. The PNAS study was cited 61 times, and the Science study was cited 73 times, according to the Thomson Scientific Web of Knowledge.

The Science retraction reads: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

September 23, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Here we go again: Why Nature didn’t just post a paper on stem cell editing after the findings leaked

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Last week, Technology Review broke the story of the first gene editing of human embryos in the U.S., using the much-ballyhooed CRISPR technique. That’s a big development, for scientific and ethical reasons, so not surprisingly, other news outlets jumped on it.

The coverage prompted stem cell scientist and blogger Paul Knoepfler to wonder who leaked the paper — which, as many knew but didn’t say because of, well, an embargo, was scheduled to be published today in Nature. (The Tech Review article was published July 26, and Nature didn’t post a pre-embargo version of the paper until a few days ago.)

The coverage also prompted Nature to include this in their embargoed email to reporters on Monday about this week’s issue: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

August 2, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A tipping point? Nature angers science journalism corps with short Kennewick Man embargo

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cover_natureIt took 9,000 years for the remains of Kennewick Man to be found in 1996, nearly a decade of legal wrangling with the government for scientists to gain the rights to study him, and almost another decade for researchers to reveal his secrets.

But this week Nature, in a move that irritated a number of leading science journalists, decided that the news just couldn’t wait several more days so that reporters would have time to digest the details of what one journalist accurately described as “an incredibly complicated subject.”

As usual, we’ll leave the analysis of the results to the stories by journalists focused on the paper itself. Here’s some of the abstract, to provide a bit of context: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

June 18, 2015 at 1:00 pm

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“These are good gigs”: Jann Ingmire leaving JAMA for University of Chicago

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jamaUsually when I quote messages from press offices on Embargo Watch it’s because of embargo breaks. But today I’ll quote a message from the JAMA press office for a very different reason: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

November 11, 2013 at 11:00 am

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Anger, confusion as Popular Science inadvertently broke blue planet embargo

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Ethan Siegel was not pleased last Wednesday: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

July 15, 2013 at 9:00 am

Is this the scientific embargo version of insider trading?

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north shoreIf you’re a health reporter like I am, you may be familiar with emails with subject lines like this:

For Monday @ 4:00 PM Expert Ophthalmologist (Dr. Mark Fromer) RE: EMBARGOED – Study Suggests Association Between Regular Aspirin Use, Increased Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

The email, sent on January 18, continues: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 7, 2013 at 11:56 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Take that, Ingelfinger! eLife announces its media policy, sans embargoes and Ingelfinger

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eLife, the new open-access journal funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society, and the Wellcome Trust, announced its media policy earlier this week. (I was hoping to jump on this Monday, but despite being remarkably unaffected personally by Hurricane Sandy in midtown Manhattan, there were of course other considerations this week involving my family, my Reuters Health staff, and others — many of whom are still coping with the effects of the storm.)

The short version of this post: I love this policy.

From the policy’s preamble: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

October 31, 2012 at 9:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Quote my report, but don’t quote me: Why don’t some biotech analysts give interviews?

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Today, I’m pleased to offer a guest post by Kathleen Raven@sci2mrow on Twitter — an up-and-coming science writer and recent graduate of the University of Georgia, where she earned a graduate degree in conservation ecology and is scheduled to complete one health and medical journalism in May 2013. A freelancer, Raven just completed an internship at Nature Medicine. While working on a piece for the journal, she had a vexing experience that gave rise to this post.

Kathleen Raven

In July, an Associated Press story—posted on Bloomberg/Businessweek—quoted a research report written by pharmaceutical analyst Jeffrey Holford at Jefferies & Co., who predicted that Eli Lilly’s Alzheimer’s drug would fail in its late-stage trials before the company released the final results. (It did.) So this summer, while I was reporting a quick Nature Medicine story about the Indianapolis-based drug giant’s five recent phase 3 trial failures, I wanted to get Holford’s take.

I called the investment company’s New York office as a member of the media and was promptly given Holford’s phone number. I dialed and Holford picked up: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

October 19, 2012 at 9:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized