Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

About That Embargo Kerfuffle ..

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Image: Orphaned?

The short story: this kerfuffle was the result of a misunderstanding.

The long story follows.


I was surprised to realize that my rant was quite impressive to the people at AAAS, even though it was rather mild by internet/blogosphere standards (actually, it caused scarcely a ripple among science blog writers). Certainly, I was not (and am not) angry at any individual, but I was annoyed and frustrated by what I perceive to be an institutionalized gatekeeper that supports and protects the media monolith’s undeserved chokehold over science and medical reporting. (My perception is based on several previous rejections from EurekAlert!, where I was not provided with any formal explanation, but was told “informally” that because I was not MSM, I would always be denied access to embargoed literature.)

If that makes sense.

Ginger Pinholster from EurekAlert! emailed me on the afternoon of 16 April, asking me to call her. In that telephone conversation, she said the reason I was not provided with EurekAlert! access is because Abigail read the “about” page on my blog, which mentioned my desire to find consulting work (or any other sort of paying work, since I have been unemployed for the past five-and-a-half years after my postdoc funding ended. Is this when I get to remind people that it is extremely difficult to live in NYC without a paying position?)

Ginger and Abigail interpreted my plea for “consulting work” as a potential conflict with SEC regulations since who knows where I might consult (Big Pharma, for example).

In the meanwhile, I complained to my contact at Science about my EurekAlert! rejection, and was waiting for something to change when I noticed that AAAS was reading my “about” page. I looked at it and realized it was sadly outdated, and deleted all that job-begging information because I thought it made me look unprofessional or worse, like a loser because, well, I have been unemployed for a helluva long time despite having my fancy education and excellent work history. In short, I was ashamed by the inexplicable wreckage of my professional life and mistakenly thought that AAAS was looking at that and rethinking their kind invitation to provide me with access to embargoed Science literature.

It turns out that buried in my usual daily deluge of email, one of those messages was from Abigail, asking a series of questions about the nature of what I do with regards to science and science writing. She wanted me to answer them before she could make a final decision regarding literature access. However, in our telephone conversation, Ginger pointed out that I had been given access anyway — but I would have to email the press person handling the particular paper I wanted to request him/her to send it to me. So I had a sort of “provisional” (?) access that involves more work for the press people handling particular stories, and they prefer I have direct access where I can just click a link instead of going through someone at the office to get the papers I want to read.

So basically, this time, EurekAlert!’s “rejection” was initially due to the potential for conflict with SEC regulations, and had nothing to do with my lack of employment nor my lack of journalist’s credentials.

When I spoke with Ginger, she was most kind, but oddly, she asked that I “change my blog” entry to reflect the current situation: namely, that I was awarded full EurekAlert! access. Considering the amount of attention this blog entry received, I instead decided to published this update on my blog. It’s rather an interesting story, I think. And I hope that by telling this story, it serves to humanize the people in the EurekAlert! offices — an important thing for me (!!) and others to remember.

So that’s the long story. It ended well, too. But this happy ending still doesn’t change my opinion about embargoes.

Comments

  1. #1 Cristina
    March 19, 2010

    Congratulations! I look forward to reading the posts resulting from said access! :)

  2. #2 Ginger Pinholster
    March 19, 2010

    Dear Devorah, thanks so much for providing your readers with all information on this episode. I would like to clarify that by asking you to “change your blog,” what I meant was that it would be helpful if you could correct the misinformation that you had been rejected outright and permanently by EurekAlert!. In fact, as you have now noted here, staff asked you for additional information about your application, which you didn’t provide until I phoned you. Thanks for providing the correct sequence of events here. Kind regards, and happy reporting / blogging. Ginger

  3. #3 "GrrlScientist"
    March 19, 2010

    not a problem, ginger. i am very excited to be able to access some of the literature!

  4. #4 Roberto
    March 20, 2010

    Being in NYC and still survung the oddities is tough enough a challenge for any of the residing individual, especailly those without some sort of pay in for their city lifestyle. A story and real life …a whole standing picture for me.

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