Information for journalists and press officers
Here we outline how PLoS Medicine publicises its papers ahead of publication, what we do to try and engage the media and the public, and what we do to encourage responsible reporting.
If you have any questions about PLoS Medicine, our papers or press releases, or the Public Library in Science in general, please feel free to contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
What does PLoS Medicine do to promote forthcoming papers?
Given that one of the core principles of PLoS is to “engage the interest and imagination” of the public in science and medicine, PLoS Medicine invests considerable thought and time into the question of how to publicise and promote our papers. In many ways this is an extension of the fact that as an open-access publisher we are committed to the widest possible dissemination of our content – it is freely available for anyone to read, download and distribute. Every week the Editorial team discusses the forthcoming papers and how we will cover each one in our weekly press release. The draft press release is always checked by the author of the paper before it is distributed to the media.
Each Tuesday we send out a press release that covers the papers to be published the following week. This goes to our press list of over 300 science and health journalists from across the world who have agreed to the terms of the PLoS embargo policy. We also post each item to the EurekAlert science news site. This site has a wider audience but it also requires users to agree to observe embargoes.
How we keep the tone and content of releases right
A this May 2008 editorial explains it can be difficult for medical journals to distance themselves from sensationalist media reporting of research that they’ve published when, in reality, they also have an interest in the “media publicity drives readers to the journal and builds brand recognition.” We try to make our press releases sober rather than sensationalist and do what we can to help journalists write accurately. An editor rather than a press officer writes the release and we always send the draft to the author of the paper to check for any factual errors. We frequently coordinate our efforts with press officers at other institutions too.
In our press releases we aim to: 1) include a section putting results into context; 2) mention the limitations of the study; 3) including funding information and relevant competing interests; 4) a summary of the results using absolute rather than quantative measures. We encourage press officers at other institutions to do the same.
Each press release includes a link to the full PDF of the paper and to the Editors’ Summary, which gives the general reader a summary of the background to the topic, why the study was done, what the researchers found, and what these findings mean. When relevant we also include striking and informative figures, videos, datasets, and even translations, which, like the paper itself, are free for anyone to re-use as long as they are credited properly.
For example, a 2007 paper by Majid Ezzati and colleagues analysed mortality data for every county in every US state over four decades, finding a steady increase in mortality inequality across counties between 1983 and 1999. As we explored in our blog, local journalists from across the United States took the opportunity to download the supporting dataset to find the specific data for the counties they were reporting on, whilst influential outlets such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reproduced the figures from the paper, understanding that they were not only free to access but free to re-use.
What does our embargo policy mean?
The media embargo is usually set to end the day before the publication of the paper at 5PM Pacific Time.
For authors: Our embargo policy does not restrict you from sharing your research with your peers and colleagues before the paper is formally published. We encourage you to present your findings at medical or scientific conferences ahead of publication and to make your findings available in databases, blogs, and Wikis – this is all consistent with the mission of PLoS to make scientific literature freely available for everyone to read and re-use. However we do ask you not to contact the media until the publication and embargo date have been established.
For journalists: We provide press releases one week in advance of the publication of paper, which we hope gives you adequate time to research and accurately report on the papers we publish. Our embargo policy is also intended to keep a level playing field – everyone is expected to respect the embargo.
Information for journalists and bloggers
You can see an archive of PLoS Medicine press releases on Eurekalert – we’d appreciate any tips you have for improving them to help you write better articles.
- If you’d like to be placed on the press list to receive press releases of embargoed PLoS papers before they are posted to Eurekalert or any other science news site, please contact email@example.com.
- In our press releases we include a link to the final online location of the published article, which will be live shortly before the embargo ends. Please include this URL in your reports so that your readers can access the freely available paper for themselves if they want to read further.
- In addition, we provide a link to the full PDF, the Editors’ Summary and sometimes various striking figures, videos or translations in the press release. Like all PLoS content these are freely available for you to reproduce and make use of as long as you provide the image, video or translation accreditation, as specified in the release.
-If you’re interested in writing about the Public Library of Science in general or the open access movement, a good place to start is the PLoS FAQs. Feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in speaking to someone at PLoS about the organisation or open access.
You may also be interested in these sites that provide feedback on the way that health issues are covered in the media: Media Doctor in Australia, Health News Review in the United States, and NHS Choices Behind the Headlines in the UK.
Information for authors and press officers:
- Once a paper has been provisionally accepted for publication in PLoS Medicine, the journal staff will contact the author with some information about the press release process. We encourage them to put the press officer of their institution in touch with us at that point.
- When we have a concrete publication date for a paper, typically when it reaches typesetting, approximately four weeks ahead of publication, we contact the author and any press officers who have been in touch. We confirm the publication and embargo dates and pass on the link to the final online location of the paper.
- We always contact authors to ask them to check the draft release for any factual errors. We also appreciate it if press officers share the release they write on the paper with us ahead of distribution.
Finally, if you have any questions about this process, or queries about a forthcoming paper in PLoS Medicine that you have been informed about, please get in touch with through email@example.com.