Neuroscience 2012 Coverage Spans the Globe
Media coverage of the SfN annual meeting set a new record in New Orleans in 2012, with more than 1500 articles online, in print and on the airwaves in media worldwide. The results reflect a growing trend that has resulted in coverage five times as large as that in 2006. The coverage reinforces awareness that the SfN meeting is the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
“Do the Brain Benefits of Exercise Last?” asked The New York Times. “Why Crying Babies Are So Hard to Ignore” led the Guardian. Other publications wrote that “Disrupted Sleep May Predict Alzheimer’s” (Nature); “Being a Mother Changes Cocaine Impact” (UPI); “Mouse Experiment: In a Dream Therapy to Alleviate Traumas” (der SPIEGEL); “Too Important to Smile Back: The 'Boss Effect'” (The Wall Street Journal); “What Singing Fish Reveal About Speech and Hearing” (Scientific American) and “Skipping Breakfast Primes the Brain to Seek out Fat” (BBC News).
The number of news stories covering the annual meeting represented a significant increase — 12 percent — from 2011, and a 35 percent increase from just five years ago. Though neuroscience has traditionally been well reported in trade publications, it now appears regularly in a wide variety of news outlets, in publications and broadcasts around the world.
“Much of the media coverage focused on science and research and reflects the real progress we’re making in understanding the brain, how it works, and what happens when it’s not working as well as it should,” said James McNamara, chair of SfN’s Public Education and Communication Committee, which oversees the development of the annual meeting press program. “SfN’s advance planning and outreach to reporters is key to driving media coverage of the event.”
For the past several years, SfN has launched a comprehensive communication effort around the annual meeting, highlighting for reporters some of the most newsworthy science and research being discussed at the meeting, which features more than 16,500 presentations. Several hundred of those presentations are showcased in SfN’s outreach to the media and are presented as either press conference panels or “hot topics," which are included in a book of lay-friendly, newsworthy abstract summaries available to reporters. On site, the Society provides a working press room for credentialed media, including university public information officers, as well as remote reporting tools for off-site reporters.
Topics of the eleven press conferences featured at Neuroscience 2012 included how the brain weighs complex decisions, the progress underway in treating Alzheimer’s disease, effects of spinal cord injury on the brain, effects of traumatic brain injury, ways in which the brain processes life experiences, and the impact of diet and sleep on brain health and wellness, among others.
“The annual meeting, along with The Journal of Neuroscience, is a strong driver of news about the brain, and, therefore, a key contributor to public understanding,” said McNamara. He continued, “Understanding science is the first step to appreciating its value,” noting that high-quality coverage of good science advances the field.
Communicating about science, including research and developments, poses challenges both for scientists and reporters. Reporters look to scientists to explain complex research in language that is easily understood by lay audiences. At the same time, shrinking newsrooms have resulted in fewer science beat reporters who have a background in the subject matter and are familiar with how to translate science to the public. The changing nature of the news business, increasingly responding to the 24/7 news cycle, leaves less time for detailed, complex news stories like those involving neuroscience research. In order to reach the general public through the media, scientists, researchers, and others in the field need to deliver messages in succinct ways that can answer the question “why should I care about this?” and SfN’s Public Education and Communication Committee works each year to help convey that critical impact.
In addition to reports in major national U.S. publications, science from the annual meeting also appeared in hundreds of local television broadcasts and local newspapers across the country. Internationally, stories appeared in the Guardian and Times (UK), the Globe and Mail (Canada), Bangladesh News, Asian News International, Der SPIEGEL (Germany), Lesaffaires.com (France), The Australian, and other outlets. Seventy-five percent of stories about Neuroscience 2012 appeared online in traditional news websites, or in online-only sources such as Yahoo! News and The Huffington Post. Fourteen percent of news reports were carried in blogs, 7 percent in broadcast outlets, and 4 percent were carried in print-only publications or wires.