Press Releases for Papers

Space physics is full of exciting new discoveries about how nature works. Within the community, some papers have a big impact on the field, and we can even quantify this with various metrics, like views/downloads from the journal website to citations in top-tier journals. Beyond our field, however, we are often cautious about sharing our findings with a broader audience. This is understandable, because we usually formulate our findings in our jargon-filled, field-specific nomenclature. It takes a serious effort to convert our cool results into language that non-experts can easily comprehend.

Yes, I am talking about the new-paper-related press release. In general, I think that if the authors are excited enough about their research findings to consider a press releases, then they should follow through with it and do the press release.   I don’t want to discourage anyone from pursuing publicity about their latest findings.

Press releases can be done at the local level, and is especially easy if your institution has a press office. Pretty much all universities, large companies, and government labs have such an office with media specialists who know exactly how to construct a press release about your scientific finding and how to distribute it to the right journalists. If you are excited about your result, your press office crew can help you formulate it into a story of relevance to the general public.

In addition, you can work with the press office at the funding source for your work, like NASA or NSF. Your program manager will be able to direct you to a press office within that agency.

I think you should do a press release even if there are others in the field that might not be convinced yet about the veracity of the claim.  If we waited until a majority consensus, then we wouldn’t call it new and it wouldn’t warrant a press release. So, go for it, even if others in the field might cringe. They can have their own press release on a competing finding.

As for the timing of it, many press offices want the release to come out simultaneously with publication. So, if you think your results are worthy of a press release, then start talking with your press office at the time of submission or after the first round of reviews, so that it is ready to go soon after acceptance.

 

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