As traditional media outlets like CNN have cut back on research coverage, universities have teamed up to share research in a new way.
Through futurity.org, a new website that compiles and features stories based on research from 35 North American universities — including USC — schools can share their new research and read about what other schools are doing.
“The universities participating in Futurity are among the most credible and trusted institutions in society,” Jenny Leonard, Futurity editor and University of Rochester communications representative, wrote in an email. “And they now have a mechanism to deliver a wide range of research news directly to readers without barriers.”
The public relations departments at each of the participating universities send stories to Futurity, where the articles are posted and highlighted.
The system allows the universities to work around the cutbacks that have recently plagued research and science sections of national media.
“All of us were concerned about the quickly changing nature of science and research coverage in America,” said James Grant, associate vice president for USC Media Relations.
He added, “Groups like CNN cut out their entire science coverage area, and newspapers have also made tremendous cuts.”
USC was approached with the idea last January, along with several other universities, and was quick to jump aboard.
Critics of Futurity claim the site is functions mostly as a public relations website for universities who want to promote their own research.
Marc Cooper, director of Annenberg Digital News, said consumers will have to go more than one place to get a well-rounded understanding of events.
“They’d have to go elsewhere to find more critical news,” Cooper said. “You rely on many, many places with many different forms to put together a more clear answer.”
Though it may be mostly a promotional tool, Cooper added that Futurity does have some value.
“They’re aggregating [these stories] from the public relations department — from the universities promoting their work,” Cooper said. “But it’s good to have that information available, and having the web makes it handy and compact, which would have been impossible 20 years ago.”
USC has contributed about 10 articles to the site so far, highlighting various aspects of the university’s research.
One example focused on the economic impact of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Another piece included research that contrasted how men and women respond to pressure, and still another study examined the diversity in video game characters.
“[Futurity] is another tool in the toolkit to tell the story of the incredible research that’s going on at our campus,” Grant said.
The multiplicity of information sources online — from blogs to Twitter accounts and Facebook pages — has also necessitated a controlled online presence for institutions like USC, which served as yet another reason for the university to take part in the project, Grant said.
“The hope is, as the media world changes, we can provide some consistency and a reliable place for those who are interested in the latest news and discoveries from major universities,” Grant said.