The National Science Foundation’s Science360 News Service Web site and daily e-mail news feed offers an engaging selection of interesting science and also a great opportunity for scientists and communicators to highlight their work. Anybody can subscribe to the news feed by just entering their email address in a box on the site. To learn more about Science360, I interviewed Dana Topousis—acting division director for public affairs in NSF”s Office of Legislative and Public Affairs:
How did the idea for Science360 originate?
NSF decided to create the Science360 News Service in 2008, when we realized that science coverage in the national mainstream media had dwindled. Most of the remaining science reporters were covering space and health, and NSF funds basic science and engineering across the board. We also began discussions with public information officers (PIOs) at universities and institutions around the country whose researchers receive NSF funding. We wanted to find ways to collaborate with those PIOs to help promote research results across all aspects of science and engineering. We wanted to create a service to draw reporters’ attention to the amazing discoveries being made every day that they may not have time to track themselves.
What is the editorial mix for the service?
We seek breaking news, fresh video and audio content, engaging images with a brief caption, science blogs, and current highlights from science journals and publications. Most of our submissions come from public information officers and other federal agencies. We seek any science-related content, and we don’t limit the News Service to only NSF-funded research news.
What kind of distribution does it have now?
Our distribution list includes mostly journalists, freelance writers, and public information officers, all of whom are welcome to use the Science360 News Service content for ideas or for use on their respective websites and publications.
What kind of impact on science communication do you believe the service has had?
We’ve seen an increase in both subscribers and contributors, and we’ve seen content from Science360 News Service carried on websites such as Popular Mechanics, U.S. News & World Report and LiveScience.com. Each item in the News Service has an RSS feed attached, and we’ve seen items picked up on Yahoo News, Twitter, and other outlets. We also post some of our News Service content on NSF’s Facebook page.
How are the articles, releases, videos, podcasts and blog posts chosen?
Every day, we receive submissions from public information officers and federal agencies. We also look through EurekAlert! for fresh content. Our editor reviews science coverage and news items to see what topics are popular or what gaps we might fill. We choose our blog posts from Discover, Scientific American, scienceblogs.com, public information officers and researchers. We also have a multimedia editor who contacts public information officers and federal agencies on a regular basis about submitting video and audio content; some of that multimedia content is from regular-running series. Every Monday, we feature a new episode of Science Nation, a video series that NSF creates—in collaboration with the former CNN science and technology team—that highlights innovations in science and engineering.
Do you do some of your own production?
Yes. We produce video and audio slideshows, videos, and podcasts. We also write our own press releases and feature stories.
How do you choose those stories?
We select our stories based on current news items.
What advice would you give communicators about developing the best content for Science360?
We look for fresh content and content that showcases the vast array of science and engineering research. We also ask communicators to provide us as much advance notice of their upcoming stories as possible. And we welcome communicators to write to email@example.com if they have any questions. That email address is also how communicators can submit their stories for consideration.