This embargo policy applies to all AAS and Division meetings, except where Division policies differ in writing:
- When meeting abstracts are available publicly, either electronically or in print, they are not embargoed.
- Abstracts reflect the situation at the time of submission and often do not correspond exactly to the paper that is ultimately presented, usually months later. Reporters should note that preparing a story based exclusively on an abstract is ill-advised.
- Some results to be presented at AAS or Division meetings are also the subject of papers whose manuscripts are available via preprint servers such as arXiv.org or that have already been published in scholarly journals. Such publicly available results are not embargoed.
- Interviews with presenters, as well as graphics, animations, and other information to be presented for the first time at the meeting, are embargoed until the time of presentation, where “time of presentation” means the start time of the oral or poster session in which the paper will be given, or the start time of the corresponding press conference (if any), whichever comes first.
For journalists, this policy means that anything already made public (for example, abstracts, online preprints, published papers) is fair game. For scientists, the policy means that if you are going to present your work at an AAS or Division meeting, you should not discuss it with, nor provide additional information to, journalists before the time of presentation unless they guarantee that they will not publish their stories until the embargo lifts.
The AAS reserves the right to revoke the privilege of complimentary press registration at the meeting and/or participation in live news-briefing webcasts from any member of the press who violates our embargo policy. In addition, any journalist who breaks an embargo will be removed or barred from the AAS press-release-distribution list for a minimum of 6 months.
The AAS also reserves the right to revoke an invitation to participate in a press conference from any scientist who violates our embargo policy. And if the scientist's institution issues a press release on the result involved in the embargo break, the AAS will not forward the release to journalists via the AAS press-release-distribution service.
Through 2010, the embargo policy for AAS and Division meetings stated that all findings were embargoed until the time of presentation, where, as above, “time of presentation” meant the start time of the oral or poster session in which the paper would be given, or the start time of the corresponding press conference (if any), whichever came first. That worked just fine when abstracts appeared only in the printed Bulletin of the AAS, which was distributed in hardcopy at the meeting. But now abstracts are online weeks or even months before the meeting, freely visible not only to astronomers but also to journalists and the public. Moreover, many results presented at AAS or Division meetings are also featured in online preprints or, in some cases, published papers. We cannot sensibly say that a finding is embargoed when the abstract or paper is already publicly available. Accordingly, in 2011 we revised our policy.
Although journalists love to hate them, embargoes do offer some benefits. Chief among them, they give reporters time to do their homework before writing their stories, potentially resulting in higher-quality coverage of the science. Furthermore, many institutional public-information officers (PIOs) issue press releases about results being unveiled at our meetings, and “time of presentation” provides an embargo date and time that they can put on the releases so as not to preempt their own scientists’ presentations or devalue their participation in AAS news briefings.
The embargo policy outlined above reflects modern e-publishing reality. It is modeled, in part, on the embargo policies of Science and Nature; both journals' editors recognize that most scientists post papers on preprint servers in advance of publication (sometimes even in advance of acceptance) and that most scientists present their unpublished work at conferences. Neither practice violates the journals’ embargo policy for papers under review or in press. Nature sums it up best: “Our guidelines for authors and potential authors are clear-cut in principle: communicate with other researchers as much as you wish, but do not encourage premature publication by discussion with the press (beyond a formal presentation, if at a conference).”
Questions? Comments? Please address them by e-mail to AAS Press Officer Dr. Rick Fienberg.