Leakegate: Jonathan Leake gets Sunday Times banned from EurekAlert

This Jonathan Leake story on the evolution of Polar Bears broke the embargo on this PNAS paper. Ivan Oransky quotes PNAS media and communications manager Jonathan Lifland:

The majority of our infrequent embargo violations are accidental and typically the result of mislabeled copy that does not properly list the 3 p.m. EST Monday embargo expiration. We have a separate situation with the Sunday Times of London. With EurekAlert, we have prevented their editors and reporters from accessing the embargoed news section of EurekAlert, which is where pre-print copies of our articles are accessible. ...

At this time, we have no plans to remove the restriction we have placed on the editors and reporters from the Sunday Times. ...

With the exception of the Sunday Times, we have not had any three-time repeat offenders. In the case of the Times, we have removed all reporters and editors from accessing our media materials.

It seems that you can't trust Leake about anything.

In his story, Leake writes:

It means polar bears have already survived a global warming that affected the northern hemisphere from 130,000 to 115,000 years ago, when the Greenland ice sheet and the Arctic ice cap were smaller than now.

But omits to mention this result from the PNAS paper (my emphasis)

Even more surprising, the age of the modern polar bear crown group (the
clade containing the last common ancestor of all extant members) is
estimated to be less than 45 ky, slightly older than the age of the
ABC bears (Fig. 3A), a date that is also found with the expanded
dataset of control-region sequence fragments (Fig. S5). These
estimates suggest a very recent and rapid expansion of modern
polar bear populations throughout the Arctic since the Late
Pleistocene, perhaps following a climate-related population bottleneck,
although data from more modern and Holocene polar bear
specimens will be required to establish this.

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Step aside Copernicus! The earth now revolves around Jonathan Leake - at least in his mind.

Is there any way to whack those www.journalisted.com results so they also say "A lot of unbalanced and inaccurate crap"? That'd be worth seeing...

By Vince Whirlwind (not verified) on 01 Mar 2010 #permalink

Huzzah! My comment made it through moderation:

I'd just like to congratulate Johnathan Leake for helping to get the Sunday Times kicked off EurekAlert due to his apparent complete inability to follow instructions, and for his ongoing disservice to science journalism.

A thing to remember is that thousands of years ago polar bears did not encounter artificial, human barriers as they migrated to more suitable habitats, the migration forced upon them by climate change. Yes, species may have survived past climatic changes, that does not, however, mean they will now.

By Dominique (not verified) on 04 Mar 2010 #permalink

What has a population bottleneck 45000 years ago got to do with a warm period that ended 115000 years ago?

By Gerry Quinn (not verified) on 08 Apr 2010 #permalink