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What's the story? Letting the media know about your research

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NIA Blog Team

Congratulations! You have just heard that your major manuscript has been accepted for publication. Countless hours of creative and hard work by you and your team went into this… oh, and funding from the NIA!

What should you do next? Tell us, of course! My communications team wants to partner with you to raise awareness of your study findings.

Informing the American public about research discoveries funded by tax dollars really does matter. Not only does it make sense to report back to our investors, especially in times of restrained resources, but also, we’re required by law to do this. Did you know that the legislation that established the NIA mandates that we disseminate findings based on the research that we fund? So, please be in touch with the NIA Office of Communications and Public Liaison when you have a publication coming out.

We help to explain your science—and its importance—to the public.

Screenshot of the NIA website homepage as of September 2013, captured at nia.nih.govSometimes, we create a full press release and media outreach plan. Other times, we can feature your work on our website, in our newsletters, in scientific presentations by NIA staff, and through social media.

A press release or media announcement takes the most time and effort. These circulate in advance of your journal’s embargo to a group of journalists. The embargo window gives reporters time to talk to you, to us, and to others, so they can write a more informed story. Science reporting operates under this well-established embargo system.

How does a press release work?

Preparing and vetting a press release can take six to eight weeks, with less time for shorter media announcements or summaries. The process includes:

  • writing and clearing the release/announcement with you, our project officers, and within the Department of Health and Human Services
  • lining up the best spokespeople at the NIA and on your team
  • coordinating press activities with the journal, and with you and your university’s press office

We work with you every step along the way.

If your university’s communications office also does a press release on your work, we’re happy to take a look at the draft. We might be able to help with appropriate characterization of NIA’s role in the work.

When we feature your research on the NIA website, the communications staff typically writes a short research highlight summary for posting.  It’s a great way to share your findings with people who want more information about NIA-funded research.

The Secretary, through the Institute, shall carry out public information and education programs designed to disseminate as widely as possible the findings of Institute-sponsored and other relevant aging research and studies and other information about the process of aging which may assist elderly and near-elderly persons in dealing with, and all Americans in understanding, the problems and processes associated with growing older.

PL 93-296, May 31, 1974, establishing the NIA

Do we plan media outreach for every finding?

No. In fact, we don’t feature most findings in press releases or media outreach. We want to maintain press interest, so we primarily contact reporters with findings that we think will resonate with them and the public. Just because we decide not to do press on a research finding does not mean that we don’t think it’s important.

But let me tell you, if we don’t hear about your finding in advance, we can’t really even consider it for media outreach. Most journals are happy to let you share your findings with funders, even for papers under embargo. You can check with the journal, which usually provides you media guidelines.

I’ve had researchers tell me that they don’t want to tell us about their work for media or public outreach because it seems self-promotional, to them or to their peers. Certainly, your first responsibility is to report your findings in biomedical research publications. But, where appropriate, it is fair and right to work with us and the media to report to the public as well. After all, the public has supported the result and should be the ultimate beneficiary of your work.

So, please get in touch.

You can email me at any time, and we will gladly follow up with you and your communications staff.  I look forward to hearing from you!