Journals work with media outlets to ensure that notable scientific advances are reported in the press. From a journal's point of view, media coverage of scientific articles has at least 4 purposes:
To help the media responsibly cover science, journals should consider adopting some or all of the following practices:
In the United States and some other countries, some journals release press materials and access to related articles during an embargo period. An embargo is an agreement or request that a news organization refrain from reporting information, until a specified date and/or time, in exchange for advance access to the information. Not all journals impose an embargo for information dissemination. The embargo period provides time for the media to develop stories before the scientific article is published. In general, a journal should adopt embargo policies that help as many members of the media as possible to accurately cover the science reported in the publication. However, some journals specify the type of journalists who warrant access to embargoed information. To help the media know when to expect press materials from a journal, all articles are embargoed for release until a specified date. The longer the embargo period, the more time journalists have to develop a story. A 3- to 5-day embargo period is reasonable. The full article should be available to the media on request. The embargo of the full issue can be removed the day the issue is released to the public (online or in print). If no embargo date is established, the available date is the date of publication (online or in print). Embargo policies work on the honor system and there is little recourse for a journal when a journalist violates the terms of the embargo. However, violations should be brought to the attention of the news organizations. Members of the media who do not honor the embargo may be denied access to embargoed material if violations persist.
Journals should inform authors of the intent to prepare press materials for their article. If the article has a corporate sponsor, the sponsor is expected to follow the media guidelines of the journal. If an author's organization is planning an independent press release or other media strategy, these activities should be coordinated with the journal's and publisher's (if applicable) staff. Authors should contact the journal before speaking with the press to coordinate embargo periods, background information, and publication date.
Authors are encouraged to grant interviews with reporters or discuss other information related to their study, provided that the reporter agrees to honor the embargo, in order to disseminate clear and accurate information regarding a manuscript. The embargo allows the reporter time to cultivate a well-thought-out story.
(Authorship: John Ward and Jennifer Mahar took the lead in writing this section of the white paper on behalf of the CSE Policy Committee. Jennifer Mahar revised this section for the 2009 Update. Members of the Editorial Policy Committee and the CSE Board of Directors reviewed and commented on it. This section was formally approved by the CSE Board of Directors on March 29, 2009.)
Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). Available at: http://publicationethics.org/ (Accessed January 20, 2011).
Commentary. Improving public understanding: guidelines for communicating emerging science on nutrition, food safety, and health. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1998;90:194-199. Available at: http://jncicancerspectrum.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/jnci;90/3/194 (Accessed January 20, 2011).