Handling the Release on a Conference Paper

If a physician or scientist plans to present a significant paper at a meeting or conference, the PIO may ask him or her to provide material for use in the newsroom. The usual request is for the complete text of the paper, a non-technical abstract or a news release provided in advance and in multiple copies.

Most speakers will cooperate with a request for media materials from the meeting's sponsors. However, some speakers fear that a news release or an abstract will be misunderstood by their colleagues as a veiled attempt to get publicity. Researchers should understand, however, that if their report has news value, the media will pick it up whether or not there is a release or advance text available. However, as mentioned earlier, having such materials available increases the likelihood that the work will be reported accurately and that appropriate credit will be given to others' work in the field.

Meetings and conferences may not have newsrooms or may establish them too late to permit advance planning. If you as a PIO learn of an important report from your institution — or if you are a scientist presenting one — and you have not heard from the media chairperson of the meeting, the following procedure is recommended:

Find out from the sponsoring society's media director what media facilities are planned. If there will be a newsroom, ask if the director would like you to provide a release or non-technical abstract or make the text and supporting materials available in advance.

If no media facilities are planned, ask if you may send out an embargoed release. If there is no objection, mail it to science writers and post it on a password-protected service such as EurekAlert! and Newswise well in advance of the meeting. Be sure to mark the appropriate release time in accordance with the sponsoring society's custom. Also, include information on how to contact the scientist at the meeting.

If the work to be reported has visual interest, a researcher may wish to invite local television reporters to visit his or her laboratory or plan to videotape the work in process. This should be done only with the sponsoring society's approval and with the understanding that the footage will be held and until the meeting report is made. The institution's public information office may provide its own footage and/or computer animations to television reporters attending the meeting. Again, where videotape is not available, interesting slides, computer graphics or photographic prints may be suitable.


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