Thursday, February 5, 2009

Another embargo break

Where now for embargoes? Today sees another major break in the dam. The culprit so far as my monitoring can tell is The Times - that is the Times of London, for non-UK readers.

Another indication that something is afood is that The Times has gone to a lot of trouble to break a non-story. Their headline today - published at 11.11pm GMT on the web, is "Vitamin D is ray of sunshine for multiple sclerosis patients". This is not new and the latest research, which was due to be published at 10pm GMT on Thursday seems to be merely a scientific study explaining why this seems to be the case. Vitamin D generally requires sunshine and those of us who live in the northern half of the northern hemisphere do not get as much exposure as others.

A sad memo arrives from the publisher PLos Genetics: "Dear Colleagues, Please note that the embargo on this article has now been lifted due to an embargo break. We apologize for any inconvenience.
* * * * * EMBARGO: Thursday, 5th February 2009 * * * * * *
2PM PDT/ 5PM ET/ 10PM GMT ."

Please don't apologise. It's not your fault! As the release had been posted in the embargoed section of Eurekalert! you have to wonder what the fall out will be.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dog eats dog over embargo row

Last year we predicted that embargo policies were going to come under increasing pressure because of on-line news (Englemed respects embargoes but with difficulty) and also because of the difficulty of observing US Time zones.

Yes, that's what has happened - and an almighty transatlantic row has broken out. The American Association for the Advancement of Science is affronted at European and British, in particular, attitudes and has been busy suspending or removing local outlets from access to its well-established Eurekalert! database. I'm told that organisations as diverse as The Telegraph, Die Welt and Ansa News have been suspended. The biggest row seems to be over the removal of the tabloid Sun newspaper from Eurekalert! over a science story Life on Mars.The Sun was later reinstated as a freelance had supplied the story.

Now the Association of British Science Writers is apparently to conduct a review of embargo policies. The UK Press Gazette has the story and the ABSW blog has some insights into the whole saga. More on this later maybe.

Meanwhile here's another embargo breach today, this time by the venerable old BBC. Wonder whether they will have their access suspended? You have to look at the times and dates - there is a 90 minute discrepancy.