This Talk Is Not Embargoed:
How Scientific Journals and Societies
Use Embargoes to Manipulate the Flow
of Scientific Infor...
When Did Embargoes Start?
Why Embargo?
NEJM, a typical policy:
The Journal embargo policy is designed primarily to
ensure that physician subscribers...
• Time to digest findings
• Time to find outside comments
• More time for reporters should mean
greater accuracy
Why Embar...
The Short Embargo Parade
American Journal of Gastroenterology
22:58 on May 11, 2010
The Short Embargo Parade
The Lancet
9:19, March 31, 2010
The Short Embargo Parade
Journal of Clinical Oncology
2:41, May 24, 2010
The Short Embargo Parade
The New England Journal of Medicine
0:49, on September 15, 2010
So Is It Really About Accuracy?
Does 49 minutes give reporters enough time to
do a good job?
How do you measure accuracy, ...
Unusual Embargo Policies
Unusual Embargo Policies
Chest
The papers are available on
HighWire when they’re ready, but
you won’t know when the embarg...
Unusual Embargo Policies
University of Leeds
Embargoed a study that was already
published in Geophysical Review
Letters
Unusual Embargo Policies
The Lancet
7:01 p.m. Eastern – unless you’re on
the East Coast of the U.S., in which
case it’s 6:...
Unusual Embargo Policies
American Journal of Preventive Medicine
An embargo that lifts 26 different times,
since it’s at n...
Honorable Mention
Some Societies Agree:
They Don’t Make Sense
When Studies Aren’t
Available at Embargo
Inconsistency: What Breaks are
Worth an Early Embargo Lift?
• Twitter – sometimes
• Press releases – sometimes
• Naming th...
Two Cases
By the Numbers
Since late February,
one noted embargo break per week,
on average
Do Embargoes Mean
More Coverage?
“…coverage [by the New York Times] of
JAMA increased by 50 percent after the
journal’s pu...
American Geophysical Union’s unembargoed
journals get nearly no coverage in
newspapers, compared to Science and
Nature, wh...
Does Coverage Mean
More Citations?
Articles… covered by the Times received a disproportionate
number of scientific citatio...
Breaking news coverage by twenty-four daily newspapers
of articles from the Journal of the American Medical
Association, N...
How Do Embargoes
Change Coverage?
“The often slavish reliance on a few journals implies
taking science as a given, simply ...
So What Is it Really About?
• Advancing the journals’ scientific and
profit-driven agenda
• A fail-safe that helps prove t...
“…important science news often is more a
produce of news management by the journals
that publish peer-review research, tha...
It’s About Control
Suggested Embargo Policy Text
Our embargo policy is in place to ensure as much coverage of
research [in...
Or Should Journalists
Just Give Them Up?
What if we just got rid of the Ingelfinger
Rule?
Is it safe to write about resear...
Or Should Journalists
Just Give Them Up?
Kiernan’s Vision
It is a rough-and-tumble vision of the journalistic future,
one lacking the gentility that now pervades j...
This Talk is Not Embargoed: How Scientific Journals and Societies Use Embargoes to Manipulate the Flow of Scientific Infor...
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This Talk is Not Embargoed: How Scientific Journals and Societies Use Embargoes to Manipulate the Flow of Scientific Information

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University of Wisconsin-Madison presentation, November 2, 2010

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This Talk is Not Embargoed: How Scientific Journals and Societies Use Embargoes to Manipulate the Flow of Scientific Information

  1. 1. This Talk Is Not Embargoed: How Scientific Journals and Societies Use Embargoes to Manipulate the Flow of Scientific Information Ivan Oransky, MD Executive Editor, Reuters Health Blogger, Embargo Watch http://embargowatch.wordpress.com ivan-oransky@erols.com University of Wisconsin, Madison November 2, 2010
  2. 2. When Did Embargoes Start?
  3. 3. Why Embargo? NEJM, a typical policy: The Journal embargo policy is designed primarily to ensure that physician subscribers have their copy of the Journal at about the same time their patients hear about new research through the news media. It also gives the media time to learn about a topic, gather relevant information, and interview authors and other experts so they can accurately report complex research findings.
  4. 4. • Time to digest findings • Time to find outside comments • More time for reporters should mean greater accuracy Why Embargo?
  5. 5. The Short Embargo Parade American Journal of Gastroenterology 22:58 on May 11, 2010
  6. 6. The Short Embargo Parade The Lancet 9:19, March 31, 2010
  7. 7. The Short Embargo Parade Journal of Clinical Oncology 2:41, May 24, 2010
  8. 8. The Short Embargo Parade The New England Journal of Medicine 0:49, on September 15, 2010
  9. 9. So Is It Really About Accuracy? Does 49 minutes give reporters enough time to do a good job? How do you measure accuracy, anyway? “Proponents of the embargo system maintain that embargoes promote journalistic accuracy, but this claim is essentially tautological, because the embargo system reflects and fosters a definition of accuracy promoted by the scientific establishment.” – Kiernan V. Embargoed Science, University of Illinois Press, 2006
  10. 10. Unusual Embargo Policies
  11. 11. Unusual Embargo Policies Chest The papers are available on HighWire when they’re ready, but you won’t know when the embargo lifts until the print TOCs are announced – often months later
  12. 12. Unusual Embargo Policies University of Leeds Embargoed a study that was already published in Geophysical Review Letters
  13. 13. Unusual Embargo Policies The Lancet 7:01 p.m. Eastern – unless you’re on the East Coast of the U.S., in which case it’s 6:30 p.m., since nightly network newscasts start then
  14. 14. Unusual Embargo Policies American Journal of Preventive Medicine An embargo that lifts 26 different times, since it’s at news outlets’ local times
  15. 15. Honorable Mention
  16. 16. Some Societies Agree: They Don’t Make Sense
  17. 17. When Studies Aren’t Available at Embargo
  18. 18. Inconsistency: What Breaks are Worth an Early Embargo Lift? • Twitter – sometimes • Press releases – sometimes • Naming the journal – if you’re a mainstream outlet • Quoting from the paper – if you’re a mainstream outlet
  19. 19. Two Cases
  20. 20. By the Numbers Since late February, one noted embargo break per week, on average
  21. 21. Do Embargoes Mean More Coverage? “…coverage [by the New York Times] of JAMA increased by 50 percent after the journal’s publication date was shifted from Friday to Wednesday in April 1990.” Kiernan V. Embargoes and the New York Times' coverage of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Science Communication, June 1998
  22. 22. American Geophysical Union’s unembargoed journals get nearly no coverage in newspapers, compared to Science and Nature, which appear nearly every week. Do Embargoes Mean More Coverage? Harvey Leifert, quoted in Kiernan, pp 104-105
  23. 23. Does Coverage Mean More Citations? Articles… covered by the Times received a disproportionate number of scientific citations in each of the 10 years after the… articles appeared. The effect was strongest in the first year after publication, when… articles publicized by the Times received 72.8% more scientific citations than control articles. This effect was not present for articles published during the strike; articles covered by the Times during this period were no more likely to be cited than those not covered. Phillips D et al. Importance of the lay press in the transmission of medical knowledge to the scientific community. NEJM 1991
  24. 24. Breaking news coverage by twenty-four daily newspapers of articles from the Journal of the American Medical Association, Nature, the New England Journal of Medicine, and Science was associated with more frequent citations; coverage by network television was not. Breaking news coverage by the New York Times, when considered with coverage by television and other newspapers, was unrelated to citation rates. Does Coverage Mean More Citations? Kiernan V. Diffusion of news about research. Science Communication, Sept. 2003
  25. 25. How Do Embargoes Change Coverage? “The often slavish reliance on a few journals implies taking science as a given, simply reporting on work that is already done. With a supply of easy stories guaranteed, there is little incentive to ask about issues like the motivation underlying funding or who creates the agenda for doing the research.” – John Turney, quoted in Kiernan, p 106
  26. 26. So What Is it Really About? • Advancing the journals’ scientific and profit-driven agenda • A fail-safe that helps prove this: The Ingelfinger Rule • Kills competition and enterprise
  27. 27. “…important science news often is more a produce of news management by the journals that publish peer-review research, than of any one reporter’s special expertise or investigative energy” So What Is it Really About? – Robert Lee Hotz, quoted in Kiernan, p 77
  28. 28. It’s About Control Suggested Embargo Policy Text Our embargo policy is in place to ensure as much coverage of research [in our journal/by our society’s members] as possible. This may divert attention from other important issues in science and medicine. Provided we have a reasonable interval between the release of material and the embargo time, it may also help reporters do a better job covering these studies. However, policies that bar pre-publication publicity of scientists’ work can also have a chilling effect on the spread of scientific knowledge.
  29. 29. Or Should Journalists Just Give Them Up? What if we just got rid of the Ingelfinger Rule? Is it safe to write about research that isn’t peer-reviewed?
  30. 30. Or Should Journalists Just Give Them Up?
  31. 31. Kiernan’s Vision It is a rough-and-tumble vision of the journalistic future, one lacking the gentility that now pervades journalism about science and medicine. But the public interest, not the interest of the scientific and medical establishment, should be the uppermost concern of science and medical journalists – and, in fact, of institutional science and medicine. The embargo should go. - Page 140

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