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Medical Research News Embargoes: Unintended Consequences

Medical Research News Embargoes: Unintended Consequences

Ivan Oransky, executive editor of Reuters Health, has launched a new blog on the good, bad and ugly of medical news embargoes that's a must for any health journalist's RSS reader.

Here's an excerpt from his first EmbargoWatch post:

You've probably noticed that every major news organization - including mine, Reuters  - seems to publish stories on particular studies all at once. Embargoes are why.

A lot of journals, using services such as Eurekalert.org, release material to journalists before it's officially published. Reporters agree not to publish anything based on those studies until that date, and in return they get more time to read the studies and obtain comments.

That would seem to be a good thing for science and health journalism, much of which is reliant on journals for news because it's peer-reviewed - in other words, it's not just a researcher shouting from a mountaintop - and punctuates the scientific process with "news events.

Vincent Kiernan doesn't agree. In his book, Embargoed Science, Kiernan argues that embargoes make journalists lazy, always chasing that week's big studies.

But even if embargoes are a necessary evil, they're not uniform, and how each organization deals with them provides case studies in some of the chinks in embargoes' armor.

How have medical embargoes improved - or negatively affected - your reporting? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and don't forget to check out our tips for covering medical research. You need to be a registered member of ReportingonHealth.org to leave a comment, so if you haven't joined yet, click here. It's easy, quick and free. You can follow us on Twitter, too, @ReportingHealth.

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