Press releases that morph

I thought long and hard about publishing this blog, so it is with a sense of sadness and complete loss that I write these words. My interest in trying to publish in Open Access (OA) journals died yesterday.

Yesterday should have been an exciting day with a new article coming out in an OA journal, the culmination of a year and half of real time and many hundreds of hours of work with collaborators. Unfortunately for me it was spoilt at the 11th hour by (IMHO) an over-reaching OA publisher that wanted complete control over a press release (that had been crafted by many people including a professional journalist to make it pretty accessible to the non-expert). I wanted to convey what I have already discussed in several presentations, most recently at the ACS. The topic and the repercussions of the work are cause to give me “nightmares”. That did not go down very well.

Here is the press release that came out and below are two statements in the email from the publisher and how I originally intended them (bold is text removed). The collaborating group obviously made the changes before the press release appeared on their website. I was only alerted to why the changes were made after the fact.

….The last two paragraphs in your press release state:
“Incorrect processes can have a dramatic effect on chemical testing for many areas, including health and the environment.
“This is a nightmare situation that can keep you awake at night,” Ekins said. He urges scientists to ask questions about the data they use. How much of a database is generated using pipette methods? How much is erroneous? How does it affect all subsequent science and conclusions?”
Based on my reading and input from our internal staff, these statements are over-reaching in their representation of the study results. As you’re aware, incorrect processes and erroneous data have extremely strong implications to the scientific process, researchers and the general population affected by environmental and health research, so please rephrase or remove these lines.
We would appreciate it if we could ensure the most responsible communication possible for this significant piece of research. Please let me know if you have further questions or would like to discuss outreach for this research in greater detail, and please provide us with a revised draft of the release prior to sending it out………

You may think as I have been told …”Put it down to experience”, “these things happen”, “grow a thicker skin”, “don’t come off as a jerk or a hothead” ….In all my time publishing and the few times a press release has come out, I have never seen this kind of control over ones own words happen. In the big scheme of things a press release is ‘water off a ducks back’, but the implications are that this OA publisher, who was paid to publish the article (which BTW was not NIH funded), demands control over what you say in the press release. I think others need to be aware what can happen. For me this is just as big a ‘nightmare’ as the problem we pointed out in the paper. I will not be submitting this blog to the publisher for approval.



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  1. sean says:

    Derek Lowe has a blog on the paper today http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2013/05/03/drug_assay_numbers_all_over_the_place.php#comments

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