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A cheesy story: How media coverage creates opportunities for researchers

What makes a study hit the headlines, and how do you measure the impact when it does?

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A study on 3D-printed cheese whets the appetite of journalists worldwide. (Inset of authors’ video over image © istockphoto/Danil Melekhin)

There’s a growing appetite among the public for reading about scientific research, as people take an interest in where research funding is going and seek out information on the issues that affect them. Meanwhile, researchers want to know that their research is reaching the right people.

So every day in Elsevier’s Newsroom, we work with researchers, publishers and journalists to bring the latest news from our 2,500 journals to the public.

What can actually happen when you send out a news story into the world? The team behind the Journal of Food Engineering recently found out when a study received widespread media coverage, leading to a series of professional opportunities for the lead author. Oh, and yes, this story involves cheese.

Rupal Malde“In the past couple of years, I had been noticing the growing body of research around 3D printing,” said Rupal Malde, Publisher for Elsevier’s Food Science portfolio, “and we wanted to showcase this development in our journal.”

Her team worked with Editor-in-Chief Prof. Emeritus R. Paul Singh to create a special issue about the 3D printing of foods. “We encouraged researchers to submit photographic and especially video materials to make sure that their articles were making the best use of the functionalities of ScienceDirect to empower their research and illustrate their findings,” she said.

Vegemite smiley face on toasted bread, part of Figure 4 in <a target="_blank" href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0260877417300080#%21">Charles Alan Hamilton</a> et al, Journal of Food Engineering (January 2017).In the Newsroom, we knew that research about 3D printed food could garner the public’s attention – who doesn’t want to see a smiley face printed on toast with Vegemite?

We ultimately decided to feature another study from the special issue – about 3D printed cheese (!) – in the Elsevier Research Selection (ERS), a bimonthly newsletter sent to over 1,600 science journalists worldwide featuring new and interesting research from Elsevier. The study ended up being covered by about 20 media outlets, including CNN, the Daily Mail and tech blog Gizmodo, often alongwith the video the researchers created.

Watch the authors’ video at the end of their <a target="_blank" href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0260877417300420">article in the Journal of Food Engineering</a>.

Prof. Alan Kelly, PhDThe study’s lead author, Dr. Alan Kelly Professor of Food Science at University College Cork, Ireland, suddenly found himself at the heart of an exciting dynamic. He wrote:

I was contacted by so many people after the ERS was sent. Some of them were journalists who were really interested in the subject and wanted to ask me additional questions for their articles. But I was also invited to speak at several conferences. One very positive outcome of this was that two major food companies approached me to explore collaborative projects.

This was all very exciting for us, especially when considering that much of the research project was undertaken by three French undergraduates who were visiting on a voluntary basis and showed a great deal of passion for this innovative research, even though it was not funded.

Overall, I was thrilled with the interest. It was great that the journal stimulated authors to upload video content. I have no doubt that Elsevier’s media department was a key catalyst. I will never overlook such opportunities again!

Feedback like this is a great reminder of the opportunities we can help create for authors by securing media coverage, which goes a long way in improving their research impact and reach. Earlier this year, research articles on the cost of tanning beds for the US healthcare system, self-driving cars and male infertility also enjoyed a great deal of press attention, making the headlines of top-tier media outlets such as Fortune, The Guardian and the International Business Times.

Aside from helping our authors’ work hit the headlines, we also help them keep track of the press coverage their studies generate. Through Newsflo, which can be found on users’ Mendeley Stats page and in SciVal and Pure, they can see how their research is being mentioned in the media. Additionally, PlumX Metrics from Plum Analytics, which joined Elsevier earlier this year, helps researchers keep track of alternative metrics such as news stories, blog posts and social media mentions. They are now available through Scopus and Pure, with ScienceDirect to follow later this year.

Opportunities for researchers and journalists

Are you a researcher, and do you want to find out more about how your work can reach the headlines? Are you a credentialed science reporter, and do you want to get access to all of Elsevier’s 2,500 journals? Get in touch with Elsevier’s Newsroom at newsroom@elsevier.com.

Read the study

The article is free until December 7, 2017.

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