Monday, August 28, 2006

Media coverage of scientific discoveries

Inside Higher Ed August 21, 2006: "The Embargo Should Go"

Interesting discussion of the relationship between journal embargo practices (i.e. making the article available to journalists before its publication and entry into the public eye) and popular media coverage of scientific discoveries:

"The embargo system also works against the public interest in the way that it misleads the public about science and medicine. The embargo creates a torrent of news that draws excessive public attention to most research. Put simply, journalists should ignore most of the journal articles that they now cover so energetically. Most journal articles are but single dots in the pointillist enterprise that is the scientific method — but the breathless coverage catalyzed by the embargo system often gives the impression that each week’s paper is a major breakthrough. Journalists pay much less attention to later studies that play down the findings."

The opinion piece also uses BiomedCentral as an illustrative example:
"When BioMed Central started in 2000, it did not offer advance embargoed access to journalists; journalists had to wait to read a journal article until it was publicly posted on BioMed Central’s Web site. But journalists ignored its journal articles.

Consequently, in 2003, BioMed Central tweaked its editorial processes so it could start offering journalists a brief period of embargoed access — a few days to at most a week. Since the change, BioMed Central has seen a marked increase in press coverage."

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