Research Briefs Continue to Bring Awareness of U of M Discoveries in Ways People Understand

Journalist’s Resource, created by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, curates, summarizes and contextualizes high-quality research on newsy public policy topics. Among other resources, it publishes tip sheets with best practices for journalists when reporting on various public policy topics—including one with tips from School of Public Health Assistant Professor Carrie Henning-Smith—and provides explanations of commonly misunderstood research terms and methods.

Journalist’s Resource recently asked its readers—largely journalists and academics—two questions related to COVID-19 research news.

To academics: “Have you noticed any common mistakes or missteps in news stories about scientific research during the COVID-19 pandemic?”

To journalists: “What would you like academic researchers to understand about the job of a journalist—especially in the wake of a pandemic?”

Here are a couple of answers from journalists who responded:

Anna Boiko-Wayrauch, reporter at KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio: “I would like academics to know that when journalists like me turn to research we are trying to figure out how it applies and can help our readers, the average person. Often, it seems like researchers embark on a project looking to show how it can advance the scientific dialogue, how it can answer a specific question that other researchers have not answered yet. For journalists, I’m looking at how a research paper can answer a question that my readers have. How can it help them live better or understand the world around them better? ...”

Michael Fitzgerald, articles editor for Boston Globe Magazine: “Journalists work for audiences, and general interest audiences typically come away from a story with one thing that sticks. We need to tell our audiences Why Something Matters. We want that to be as simple and clear as possible. The story is going to have a headline, or an intro, and these also need to make a concise point. So we push academics and researchers to tell us Why Something Matters ....”

As many of you know, Research Briefs have been highly successful in sharing with the public—through the media—the ways U of M System faculty are discovering new knowledge that can change how we all live.

For those of you not familiar with Research Briefs, this communications tool is a concise 350-500 word summary of research that has been published in a journal and linked online. The Research Brief is written by faculty—often in collaboration with their communications team—with the goal of making the research understandable to a lay audience. Research Briefs are distributed to targeted local, state, national, and international media, posted to the News & Events website and shared on social media. An online form is available to easily guide faculty and communicators when summarizing the published research.

Please feel free to share the link with your faculty. If there are any questions, contact Brad Robideau at He’s available to virtually connect with you, faculty, or in-unit meetings, to discuss the Research Brief process.