If you’re a press officer promoting science at your organization, you’ve almost certainly worked with the embargo system. Agreement of an embargo among journal publishers, press offices, and news outlets offers extra time for reporters to research and prepare news stories and encourage fair and equal access to scientific research among journalists around the world. But miscommunication and differing understanding of what an embargo entails can lead to confusion. Here we clarify how EurekAlert! utilizes embargoes to promote better science news coverage.
What is an embargo?
First, a definition: a news embargo is a date and time indicating when information may be made public by reporters who have agreed to the embargo in exchange for advance access. The embargo period refers to the window during which the original research and any associated press materials are made available to reporters before the public.
EurekAlert! typically only accepts embargo times set by content sources – in science communication, this usually consists of publishers of scientific journals and organizers of scientific conferences or news briefings.
How to submit embargoed content to EurekAlert!
Embargoes listed on news releases submitted to EurekAlert! should always match the embargoes for the related papers (or events). As such, once the embargo for a given paper lifts, any embargoed news releases associated with that paper will automatically move to our public news feed.
To indicate an embargo-release time, simply select “Yes” under the “Is this release embargoed?” section near the bottom of the first page of the news release submission form and set the embargo month, day, year, hour and minutes using the 24-hour clock (screenshot below). Our form uses U.S. Eastern Time, so make sure to double check the time-zone conversion (we often use this site to check ourselves).
Be extra careful during the semi-annual switches to and from daylight-savings time – and especially the couple of weeks during summer and fall when U.K. and U.S. time zones are out of sync. (We also send reminders to PIOs during this time).
Embargoed news releases are made available to reporter-registrants as soon as they are processed and are distributed to reporters that evening via the EurekAlert! Express email alerts. Releases submitted outside our business hours (8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time) are processed the following business day in the order received. If your embargo period is less than one business day, be mindful that the embargo may be lifted before your release is processed and/or distributed by email).
You may make an embargoed news release available to EurekAlert!’s reporter-registrants up to two weeks in advance of the embargo-release time, as long as it conforms with the related journal’s own rules (for example, the Science Family of Journals only permits embargoed outreach to commence four days prior to embargo release time.) When in doubt, always reach out to the journal’s press office for confirmation. Our free PIO directory, Science Sources, may be a helpful resource.
We asked EurekAlert! reporter-registrants in a 2017 survey what they considered to be a reasonable embargoed period, and the majority indicated five days to be optimal.
Considerations for when not to use an embargo
Reporters may perceive the use of “arbitrary” embargoes as generating artificial hype, which can be detrimental to an institution’s credibility. Most journals and scientific meetings that use embargoes publish their embargo guidelines. EurekAlert! may not accept news releases with embargoes that we cannot easily verify.
Because embargoes are typically tied to specific publications and events, we accept embargoed postings in the Research News, Meeting Announcement, Press Conference Announcement, and Award Announcement categories provided the embargoes were set by the publishers, or organizers of the scientific meetings or press events in question. News releases that don’t have a connection to an upcoming publication or event – such as those categorized under our Science Business, Grant Announcement, and Book Announcement sections – are not eligible for embargoed posting, though their publication can be scheduled upon request (more below).
If you submit a news release to EurekAlert! without an embargo but would like it to be made public at a specific date and time (as opposed to immediately upon processing), you can make a request in the “Special Handling Notes” section at the bottom of the first page of our news release submission form. News releases with a delayed public posting time are not “embargoed,” meaning that they’re not available to anyone, including reporters, between the time we finish processing it and your designated publish time.
Why we use embargoes at EurekAlert!
Scientific research can be difficult to communicate to public audiences and embargoes offer one way to enable reporters to take the time they need to produce in-depth, accurate, and nuanced coverage that enhances public understanding. By taking great care in how we define and manage news embargoes on our platform, we aim to build trust among reporters and PIOs toward the broad communication of science.