Here’s a story that’s difficult to report properly. It’s the discovery of adults & nymphs of a predatory aquatic insect related to mayflies called Coxoplectoptera. A new order of insects! The science news outlets have several stories covering what looks like a truly fantastic find.
Yet, if you’re looking for the actual research itself, good luck. The press coverage has been published ahead of the original research. The journal homepage, Insect Systematics & Evolution, is still on the previous issue. None of the stories even carry a citation to a paper in press. Thus, if you have any questions about the research methods or conclusions, you’re stuck with the popular media’s accounts.
The purpose of a press embargo is to give media outlets time to prepare so they’re ready to cover a story accurately and in detail once the underlying science becomes public. It makes for better reportage. Yet if the embargo lifts at the wrong time, the effect reverses. An elite press touts exclusive knowledge, and we have to trust them.
If embargoes can’t be done properly, they shouldn’t be done at all.
Fortunately for our purposes, though, the lead author has listed the citation on his website. Thus, if you’re looking for the actual meat behind this discovery, here are the details:
STANICZEK, A. & BECHLY, G. & GODUNKO, R.J. (2011): Coxoplectoptera, a new fossil order of Palaeoptera (Arthropoda: Insecta), with comments on the phylogeny of the stem group of mayflies (Ephemeroptera). – Insect Systematics & Evolution, 42: 101-138.