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Tell your stories of science by collaborating with communicators

Joe Balintfy
Joe BALINTFY,
Office of Communications & Public Liaison (OCPL).

It’s a prestigious accomplishment to have your research paper published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Congratulations, you’re reaching important audiences! But what more can be done to share your discoveries and connect more broadly? The answer is: Collaborate with science communicators!

The NIA Office of Communications and Public Liaison (OCPL) team strives to convey clear, accurate scientific and related information to multiple audiences. In fact, disseminating content about aging and advances in research to the public, health care professionals, and the scientific community, among others, is a key part of the NIA mission and strategic directions plan. Plus, your successes are our successes, and we want to help spread the word.

An early heads-up is essential

For all NIA-supported researchers — whether onsite in NIH labs or in a grantee institution — a key guideline is to connect with your organization’s communications staff when your paper has been accepted for publication. Here at NIA OCPL, we would ideally prefer to learn about newly accepted papers three to four weeks in advance, and appreciate it even more when a brief, plain language summary about what makes your science new, different, and meaningful is included.

Speaking of plain language, it takes both skill and time to translate complex, technical information from research papers into communications that are accurate and that will resonate with non-scientific audiences, including but not limited to the general public and Congress. With sufficient lead time, communications staff can also offer more strategic outreach guidance, some of which can take weeks, due to broader review and vetting requirements.

Different options for reaching audiences

Research news isn’t one-size-fits-all, so we typically create a customized plan for outreach. In general, though, for a highly significant finding — something that fundamentally changes the scientific landscape or has major clinical implications — with enough time, we might recommend a news release to capture the interest of major news outlets. In cases when the science might not be of news appeal to a broader, mostly public audience, but it’s still an important step forward in the field, we have other options, such as a research highlight or feature story on the NIA website and/or social media amplification (for all of the above) through Twitter and Facebook.

Acknowledgments

Regardless of the ways we share the science, we must convey the connection to NIH funding. Please remember:

  • NIA grantees are responsible for crediting the NIH and NIA in related communications. For example, a news release or webpage might state: “This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging, grant ####.”
  • Unless the communications content has been reviewed and cleared through NIH and NIA, grantees also should include a disclaimer such as, “The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging.”
  • NIA grantees and other collaborators planning to issue a news release about NIA-supported research should notify us at NIAPressTeam@mail.nih.gov.
  • As noted earlier, we can also help amplify your NIA-supported research via social media. On Twitter, tag NIA (@NIHAging) and use the hashtag #NIAfunded on your posts.
  • For more information, visit Communicating and Acknowledging Federal Funding.

Contact your communications collaborators

Not sure if your paper is newsworthy or unclear about how to make your findings relevant for lay audiences? Science communicators can help, whether here at NIH or at your own grantee organization. We love a good research story, always keep manuscripts confidential, and honor journal embargo policies. Contact NIA communicators at NIAPressTeam@mail.nih.gov or 301-496-1752.

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