Faculty of 1000

Post-publication peer review

Worthless lie

Posted by rpg on 9 February, 2010

I’m on record as defending PR in the scientific sphere (and featured in Nature’s From the Blogosphere, so it must have touched a nerve somewhere). I maintain that we will continue to require good public relations, perhaps even more so with the looming spectre of swingeing cuts in publicly-funded science. (I’m a little less enamoured of paying PR managers at a research council double the average professorial salary, but that’s a story for another day.)

Although f1000 (obviously) isn’t associated with any particular institution or scientist, we do like to put out the occasional release covering interesting science that’s been picked up by the Faculty. This is an interesting exercise as a lot of newsworthy stories have usually already been released by the journal of the original article, or the author’s home press office, by the time our evaluations come in. But we do find a lot of important (or, let’s be honest, slightly quirky) work that hasn’t got much further than a couple of interested specialists, and we like to bring it to a wider audience. (Sometimes this attracts criticism from talentless hacks, but hey, it’s all good). Besides, if six month-old ‘news’ is good enough for the Beeb, it’s good enough for us.

Anyway, we’ve been reasonably successful in our forays into PR, getting quite a bit of attention from all sorts of places, including the national press. Some of our more popular topics have included cartilage repair, cocaine addiction and seasonal effects on multiple sclerosis (rather than deluge you with links, all our releases are archived at EurekAlert.) SP has made a glossy brochure of media coverage, which you can have a look at if ever you care to visit me in the shadow of the BT Tower.

Interestingly, the Royal Society of Chemistry has also been experimenting with PR. Brian Emsley recounts how ‘light’ news stories—such as the importance of adding soy sauce to your gravy— raise the profile of an organization (in this case the RSC), and basically prepare the ground for the ‘serious’ stuff. Like ground bait, or artillery barrages to soften the enemy before sending in the infantry. We’re trying to do a similar thing to the RSC; raising our own profile and that of science more generally. It’s all part of the science communication bug I have, and a way of getting people in general more ‘comfortable’ with the scientific process in general (as well as getting our content out to professionals—practice nurses perhaps—who might not have seen it).

So, we’re still experimenting, and we’ll probably get some things wrong, and hopefully we’ll get other things right, but I’d really like to know what you think about PR and the direction we should be taking it.

H/T to Sam and David for the heads-up on the RSC blog. And The Beautiful South for the tongue-in-cheek title.

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