Policy lets many see study but restricts reporting

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

On his new blog, Embargo Watch, Ivan Oransky, M.D., writes about an embargo policy that restricts journalists from writing about papers even when they are widely available to doctors, medical schools and hospitals.

Oransky, who is treasurer of AHCJ’s board and executive editor of Reuters Health, has written about embargoes before for Covering Health and TheScientist.com, questioning whether embargoes are serving the public, the scientific journals or journalists.

In this case, The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine placed an embargo on a study it made available “through HighWire, a Stanford University service that many publishers use to make electronic versions of their journals available.”

This was a new one for me. Embargoed papers not being available to anyone but the press, sure. But available to many doctors — and anyone doctors showed them to — for two weeks before we could write about them?

Oransky discussed the policy with the director of communications and marketing at the American Thoracic Society, which publishes AJRCCM, and reports on the response from him as well as from other public relations professionals and reporters.

One particularly interesting comment points out that investors are likely seeing studies release on HighWire, perhaps giving some an unfair advantage financially.

2 thoughts on “Policy lets many see study but restricts reporting

  1. Lars Fischer

    How exactly does this “embargo” restrict reporting at all? Even conventional embargos are more like gentlemen’s agreements and anyway broken on a regular basis.
    So what’s this journal going to do if I break this one?

  2. Ivan Oransky

    Thanks for the comment and question, Lars. This is certainly an unusual situation. If we do break the embargo, the ATS could take us off of the advance press list. In the past, there have been studies released there that weren’t yet published online. Given that this is a new policy, we’re waiting to see if that’s still the case.

    Keep any eye on http://embargowatch.wordpress.com/ for more developments — specifically on http://embargowatch.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/good-intentions-unintended-consequences-at-american-thoracic-society/ where there are already three comments saying I’m being too kind to the journal. As I get more feedback, we may change our minds. Or the ATS may change the policy.

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