Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

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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

The revolution will not be embargoed: My embargo manifesto, on Vox

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vox-logoI’ve finally done it: My embargo manifesto is live.

Today, Vox — thanks to Eliza Barclay and Julia Belluz — published “Why science news embargoes are bad for the public.” In its 2,000-plus words, I try to distill my thinking on embargoes, the Ingelfinger Rule, and the system that’s evolved around media coverage of science.

The title perhaps gives away the main thrust; here, in the parlance of journalism, is the nut graf: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

November 29, 2016 at 10:20 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Reuters breaks Lancet embargo

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logo_lancetThe Lancet lifted an embargo early on Thursday, following a break.

From an email sent out to The Lancet press list at 7:02 a.m. UK time Thursday morning: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

October 11, 2016 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Embargo on overdrinking proves hard to swallow for university press release

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32.coverThe Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) lifted the embargo early Friday on a paper scheduled for release today, after a university jumped the gun with a press release.

From a note sent to the PNAS media list Friday: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

October 10, 2016 at 10:02 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The FDA has been using embargoes to manipulate journalists. Here’s how.

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Charles Seife

Charles Seife

Embargo Watch readers may recall a few episodes over the years involving the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA), in which the agency tried to turn reporters into stenographers. In 2011 and 2014, journalists were required to agree not to speak to any outside sources before an embargo lifted, if they wanted access to the information ahead of time.

The 2011 incident made me a little, well, let’s say outraged, and the Association of Health Care Journalists, on whose board I’ve sat since 2002, wrote a letter to the FDA about the policy. The FDA reversed itself, which I cheered. But they went back to their old tricks in 2014, this time ending up on the radar of the New York Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan.

Despite the frustration and publicity, the FDA doesn’t seem to have made any changes. And in the new issue of Scientific American, my New York University Institute of Journalism colleague Charles Seife reveals Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

September 22, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Motherboard loses embargoed access following Science break — which came on heels of previous probation

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motherboardI have an update on Monday’s post about an embargo break by Motherboard on a study in Science about how dogs understand language. Reporters at Motherboard — and VICE, Motherboard’s parent company — have been sanctioned for the break, and will lose access to EurekAlert!, provided by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), for six weeks.

[Please note this post — including the headline — has been updated. A previous statement by AAAS saying that Motherboard had been previously sanctioned was in error; AAAS told us this morning that the previous break had led to probation, not a sanction.]

It turns out Motherboard was just about to come off of probation for another recent embargo break. AAAS chief communications officer Ginger Pinholster tells Embargo Watch: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

August 31, 2016 at 9:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

“Whoops.” Science lifts embargo early on dog speech processing study after break by Motherboard

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science 2014At 4:47 p.m. Eastern today, about three days before the embargo on this week’s issue was scheduled to lift, Science/AAAS sent out this email to its media list:

Effectively immediately, Science is lifting the embargo on the study, “Neural mechanisms for lexical processing in dogs,” by A. Andics and colleagues, because of an embargo violation by a registered outlet to which other reporter registrants have made us aware.

The Science Press Package Team and EurekAlert! take such violations extremely seriously and we will be following up swiftly with the responsible media outlet. We apologize for the inconvenience this issue creates for our registrants globally.

The embargo breaker? Motherboard, who had already taken the piece down, replacing it with this, (headlined “Whoops”): Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

August 29, 2016 at 6:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized