Chandra X-ray Observatory Publicity
Peter Edmonds, Megan Watzke
The Chandra press group is here to serve the community by publicizing exciting and newsworthy results in a responsible and engaging way, whether you have experience working with a news office or outreach group before, or if it is your first time. Over the years we have successfully worked with many scientists, and we look forward to continued collaboration with Chandra users to share the wonders revealed by this Great Observatory with the widest possible audiences.
Finding and identifying results
We welcome emails at any time from scientists who believe their latest results using Chandra data might be newsworthy. Please use firstname.lastname@example.org. A peer reviewed and accepted paper is required for a NASA press release. However, for planning purposes we strongly encourage scientists to share their results with us early in the publication process, preferably when their paper is submitted or when they become confident during the refereeing process that their paper will be accepted.
The Chandra Press Scientist (Peter Edmonds) also reviews astro-ph postings daily to look for new papers that feature or include Chandra data. The emails that are sent to scientists informing them that their Chandra proposals were successful also include an explanation of who to contact if they obtain a potentially newsworthy result. The Press Scientist and Chandra Press Officer (Megan Watzke) also attend talks, meetings, and colloquia to learn new and future results.
There are many factors that are considered when weighing whether or not to pursue publicity in the form of a press release (known by NASA as web features or feature stories) via the Chandra X-ray Center (CXC). These include the scientific significance, novelty and simplicity of the latest result, if there is an appropriate superlative that can be identified, how it compares to previously-announced discoveries, other items already on the schedule for the CXC communications group, whether an eye-catching image is associated with the result, and more. When necessary, independent subject matter experts are consulted for papers that are publicly available prior to publication or with the express permission of the authors.
To assist in our decision-making process, we encourage scientists to include a brief description of their result and its scientific significance when they email us their paper.
NASA has the right of first refusal for press releases, which means that if we decline to do a Chandra press release, scientists are welcome to pursue one through their home institution.
Publicity takes time and effort but it has many benefits, including informing the tax-paying public about the research they support, potentially improving funding for it, enhancing the author’s name recognition and possibly increasing the number of citations, spreading news about successes and unanswered questions in their fields of study, generating attractive graphics for talks and papers, and inspiring and attracting students.
If a result is selected for CXC publicity, then we work with the first author of the study to develop text and graphics for the feature. Once approved by the scientists involved, the material is reviewed by senior scientists and project staff at CXC and MSFC, and then run through a review process at NASA HQ. We then work with NASA HQ to schedule a day and time for the feature. The public release of the feature involves posting to the CXC and NASA websites as well as sending an email to hundreds of science reporters and bloggers. In addition, the results are featured on the Chandra flagship social media accounts.
We are happy to answer any questions about how CXC publicity works and the process it takes from result to release. We look forward to working with you and your colleagues about future exciting Chandra discoveries.