Journal drops the ball as it tries to juggle an embargo request and Elsevier’s temporary removal policy

So much for author instructions.

Researchers who’d submitted a paper to Social Science & Medicine on smoking in public places briefly lost their article after the journal had some confusion about an embargo they’d requested. 

The article, “Neighbourhood greenspace and smoking prevalence: Results from a nationally representative survey in England,” has since been republished in the journal, an Elsevier title. So harm, no foul. But the initial appearance of the paper online earlier this fall surprised senior author Benedict Wheeler, of the University of Exeter Medical School: 

We asked them not to publish online before the embargo date of a press release for the paper, but they published anyway, and then took the paper down temporarily until the embargo had passed.

The release was issued by the University of Plymouth, where the lead researcher on the study was based. 

The temporary removal notice remains, but it doesn’t offer any explanation for the action. Clicking on the link brings readers to the reposted paper.  

Ryan Mowat, who works in the editor-in-chief’s office at the journal, told us: 

We did honour the embargo request and added one to ensure that no “in press” version went online. Instead, it would reach Science Direct when finalised by the author. The author did go ahead and submit their corrections and the article appeared online once it was finalised, but the press team weren’t ready.

You’ll see that we resolved the issue by temporarily removing the paper within 24 hours, as per Elsevier protocol. Unfortunately, some readers were confused by this and thought it meant the paper was retracted. Therefore, once the press release was ready, we pushed to get the paper re-instated as soon as possible (unfortunately this does take a couple of days).

We received no further communication from the press team or the author so assumed this matter was resolved.

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