Press coverage of research, embargoes and open access


In a recent blog
, computational linguist Mark Liberman bemoans the  common practice
amongst scientific journals of releasing articles to the press under an embargo
which lifts several days before the article is published and made available
on the journal website. 

As Liberman notes, one problem caused by this is that bloggers who did not
get access to the embargoed version of the article are left at a disadvantage
– they cannot provide informed comment on media coverage of a science story
if they lack access to the original research article.

With open access research, ensuring that articles are available when a press
embargo lifts is even more important. A significant benefit of open access
publication is that it makes it possible for interested members of the public
to dig deeper and find out more about the details behind the news story by
looking at the original research article. For this to be possible, it is vital
for the research to be available online when the news story appears. For this
reason BioMed Central always ensures that research articles are published
on the BioMed Central website on the same day that the press embargo lifts. 

This week, for example, one of the most highly-accessed health stories on
the BBC News web site described the surprising
potential role
for the Nile tilapia, a popular edible fish, in the fight
against malaria. This research was published in the open access journal BMC
Public Health
, and with just a couple
of mouse clicks, the interested reader is able to jump from the BBC website
story to the
home page
, and then on to the original
research article

To make the most of BioMed Central’s immediate open access policy, we encourage
science and health journalists to include, wherever possible. a link from
the online version of their story to either the original article, or at least
to the relevant journal’s home page.

View the latest posts on the Research in progress blog homepage


matthew cockerill

For those interested in the Nile tilapia’s role in fighting malaria, there is additional coverage in this audio report from the Voice of America’s Nairobi correspondent, which includes an interview with the study author.

graham steel

With regards to media outlets and the important inclusion of links to OA Papers, here’s a further example though. The one highlighted is of much much greater importance but further concrete evidence is the purpose of this blog.

A very important new Paper (see below) came to my and others attention last week. As per the norm, I requested a copy from the corresponding author. I was most pleased however to cancel my request when I found it (the Paper) was OA.

From this shop floor, I can state with certainty that on a regular basis now, many great Papers which I previously had to *beg* for are instantly and freely accessible over the internet thanks to Journals who publish OA.

There were a number media reports about the Paper but not one contained a link back to the actual Paper.

BTW, I know exactly where Mark Liberman’s coming from re. embargoes etc.

Common sense finally prevailed when New Scientist ran with a short piece yesterday and unprompted, the journalist had the savy to include the url to the Paper


When one considers the major significance of this malaria research:-

“Some 90% of cases are in sub-Saharan Africa, where a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds.”

this puts many many things into perspective and let’s hope this quickly paves the way for further inroads into an issue that tragically cuts short so many lives.

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