Author Affiliations: Dr Fontanarosa is Executive Deputy Editor, Ms Flanagin is Managing Senior Editor, and Dr DeAngelis is Editor, JAMA.
The public is interested in health information, and the public news
media try to provide it as quickly as possible. Peer-reviewed, primary-source
medical journals, however, consider original articles only if they have not
been published previously. Thus, a conflict sometimes exists between the representatives
of the news media and editors of medical journals who prefer to disseminate
complete reports of medical information after validation through peer review.2- 4 All concerned want medical
information to be as accurate as possible. Medical editors rely on rigorous
peer review to evaluate such accuracy prior to accepting papers for publication,
and clinicians rely on journal publication to provide complete reports of
validated information they can assess and explain to patients. Editors of JAMA
consider scientific and clinical reports (ie, submitted manuscripts) individually,
first, to evaluate the quality of these reports and to decide whether to accept
them for publication and, second, to appraise the need for and the timing
of the dissemination of medical information contained in these reports through
the appropriate media at the earliest possible time. With few exceptions as
described below, this dissemination should coincide with publication in THE
Thus, editors of JAMA will consider a scientific manuscript for publication
only if it (or substantial portions of it) has not been published previously
and it is not under consideration for publication by another journal or publication.
Papers that have been posted or distributed on the Internet generally are
considered to be previously published. This policy, based on the Ingelfinger
rule,5- 7 also extends
to significant news media coverage in which the major study results are reported
in detail and widely distributed.
Manuscripts submitted for evaluation for possible publication are considered
confidential and privileged communications among authors, editors, and peer
reviewers. No information about submitted papers will be released by THE JOURNAL
staff to anyone outside the editorial review process, without the permission
of the author. Conversely, authors should refrain from informing other third
parties (such as colleagues, professional organizations, and the news media)
that their manuscript is under consideration or has been accepted by JAMA.
There are 4 general exceptions to THE JOURNAL's policy precluding prepublication
release of information. The most common exception is the dissemination of
such information during open scientific or clinical meetings. Less frequent
exceptions include the prior release of information during testimony before
government agencies, consideration of clinically useful information that is
part of the public domain, and prior release of information that is determined
to be of urgent public health need.
Presentation of research findings during, or publication of an abstract
for, an open scientific or clinical meeting does not preclude consideration
of the study for publication in JAMA. News media reports based on coverage
that occurs during the usual course of presentation of a scientific or clinical
paper does not preempt a manuscript from consideration for publication. However,
authors presenting papers at such meetings are advised to refrain from providing
additional information beyond that covered during the course of their presentation
and exchange with meeting attendees. Authors who present information contained
in a manuscript that is under consideration by THE JOURNAL (or before it is
formally submitted) during open scientific or clinical meetings should not
distribute complete reports (ie, copies of manuscripts) or data presented
as tables and figures to conference attendees or journalists. Publication
of abstracts in print and online conference proceedings is acceptable, but
publication of full reports in such proceedings, or in the news media, could
jeopardize chances for subsequent publication in a journal.
Authors of submitted manuscripts under consideration or accepted but
not yet published, as well as authors' institutions and sponsors, must not
participate in press conferences or issue press releases before publication.
Authors also must refrain from granting interviews with the news media about
the information under consideration, or accepted but not yet published, unless
the journalist agrees to abide by THE JOURNAL's embargo policy.
Testimony before a government agency or institution (such as the Food
and Drug Administration or Congress) that includes information not yet published
will not preclude consideration for publication by THE JOURNAL.
Reports of clinical information from government health agencies (such
as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) or other public domain
reports that have been previously published in print or online will be considered
for publication on a case-by-case basis if the editors determine the information
will be useful to readers.
There should be no delay in the release of medical information to the
public in circumstances in which there is an urgent public health need, even
if this release precedes publication in THE JOURNAL. However, very little
medical research has such urgency that the findings must be released prior
to peer review and acceptance for publication.8
In these circumstances, the appropriate authorities and agencies, such as
the National Institutes for Health (NIH), responsible for public health should
be involved in decisions about prepublication release and should be responsible
for immediate dissemination of the information to clinicians and the news
media (such as with a NIH clinical alert).8,9
In such situations, THE JOURNAL will work with authors and the appropriate
authorities to expedite review and publication decisions and coordinate the
release of information.
For other major studies that have important public health or treatment
implications, THE JOURNAL will expedite the peer-review and publication process,
such as with JAMA-EXPRESS evaluation.10 After
peer review, appropriate revision, and acceptance, reports of studies that
have immediate implications for public health or clinical practice will be
posted on THE JOURNAL's Web site prior to print publication.
Information contained in articles accepted for publication in THE JOURNAL
is embargoed until the date of publication. This embargo is an agreement between
journal editors and the news media that the information contained in a manuscript
that has been accepted but not yet published in THE JOURNAL will not be released
by the news media in any format, including print, television, radio, or via
the Internet, until a specified date and time.4
Such medical news embargoes extend back to and might have begun with Morris
Fishbein, MD, editor of JAMA from 1924 to 1949.11
The embargo typically holds until 3 PM Central time the day before the cover
date of THE JOURNAL. Copies of JAMA are mailed to physicians and reporters
prior to the embargo release during the week before the cover date. The embargo
policy is intended to enable physicians to have access to the published articles
several days before news coverage occurs so they will be prepared if patients
ask them about news reports based on a published article. In addition to the
distribution of advance copies of THE JOURNAL, press releases and a video
news release are prepared by science writers for selected journal articles
and approved by JAMA editors for release to the news media the week before
the embargo is released. This advance information and the news embargo are
intended to provide journalists from various competitive news media equal
access to news sources and an equal amount of time to prepare their news stories.4 Authors may cooperate with reporters for interviews
or to discuss other information related to the study during the week before
publication but only on the condition that the information will be released
in accordance with THE JOURNAL's embargo policy. Authors should resist pressure
from their institutions, sponsors, the news media, or others to release information
before the embargo.
Authors, their institutional representatives, sponsors, and the news
media who have questions about THE JOURNAL's policies regarding release of
information should contact the editorial office.
Fontanarosa PB, Flanagin A, DeAngelis CD. THE JOURNAL's Policy Regarding Release of Information to the Public. JAMA. 2000;284(22):2929-2931. doi:10.1001/jama.284.22.2929