* Press Release Guidelines - Division of Plasma Physics
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Press Release Guidelines

Information and Guidelines

Motivations of the DPP Meeting Publicity Effort

The goal of the DPP Meeting publicity effort is to encourage science journalists at popular newspapers and magazines to write about plasma physics topics for their audiences of laypersons. We believe the DPP Meeting provides a tremendous opportunity to communicate the excitement and importance of current plasma physics research results to the general public. We hope that these efforts will foster heightened public appreciation and support of plasma physics research.

Author Summary: Invitation and Format

If you believe that your DPP Annual Meeting paper contains significant newsworthy results that would be of interest to science journalists and their reading audiences, we invite you to write an author summary suitable for a nonscientist or typical newspaper reader. The following detailed guidelines are intended to help you prepare the paper in the best possible format for this audience.

Your author summary should ideally be 500 words or less and include 1 or 2 visuals (preferably color) with captions to accompany your write-up. The deadline for submissions is set annually by the Public Information Committee and announced annually in a message emailed to DPP members.

Post-deadline submissions may be considered by emailing Saralyn Stewart, DPP Administrator (stewart@physics.utexas.edu).

Please submit your author summary as both a PDF file and a plain text file, the latter in case the science writers would like to work with you to edit the text. Submit to the Public Information Committee Chair, posted at: the appointed committees public info section with a copy to Saralyn Stewart (stewart@physics.utexas.edu).

Your author summary will be placed on an APS-DPP meeting website for science reporters. You can see archived highlighted press releases at: http://www.aps.org/meetings/baps/index.cfm. Click on the year, scroll to the previous DPP annual meeting link, click on the link, and open the Virtual Press Room page. The other author summaries are placed in an area called "Additional Press Releases".

An author summary can describe a single paper at the meeting or several related papers. A single speaker or several speakers can submit it.

For your lay-language paper, please devise a non-technical title, such as " A Little Chaos May Go a Long Way in Future Fusion Energy Reactors".  Please do mention, however, the abstract code of the meeting paper or papers, which your summary describes.

Please also include a one-sentence summary for your paper, similar to the blurbs written for APS's Physical Review Focus: http://focus.aps.org. Please put this sentence between the title and the main text.

For assistance in writing a description of your paper for science journalists, don't hesitate to contact a public information officer or science writer at your institution. Such persons are trained to communicate to that audience, and they are usually glad to help you provide a suitable write-up for such an audience.

Please check out some examples of previous author summaries (listed at the end of this document) to get a feel for writing an author summary in the desired format.

If you have any questions, please contact the Public Information Committee Chair, posted at: the appointed committees public info section.

Writing for Science Journalists

Here is some background on your target audience. Science journalists are typically educated laypersons, rather than scientists. They generally do not have specialized knowledge of plasma physics, but can grasp physical concepts if given sufficient explanation of concepts and terms. Please keep this in mind when writing your summary.

In your write-up, please omit technical details that may be relevant only to plasma physics colleagues. Plenty of opportunities to communicate this information will exist at the DPP Annual Meeting, but there are not as many occasions in which to interest a science journalist in your work!

To write for this audience of laypersons, it may be helpful to prepare your paper with a non-scientist friend or family member in mind. Better yet, show your author summary to a friend or family member (or your public information officer). Encourage your reader to critique your write-up and suggest changes that would make it as accessible as possible to a general audience.

Your write-up should center upon the latest news that you will report in your paper. To justify writing a story on your work, journalists usually need a "news peg," some new fact, development, or insight that was not reported to mass audiences before the meeting. Please include such a news peg if possible, and mention it at the beginning of your write-up.

Please include any special distinctions or superlatives (e.g. fastest, smallest, the first) associated with the work.

Please include any necessary background information so that the journalist can appreciate the significance of the results, as well as any potential applications that can directly affect the general public.

Please mention explicitly if the presentation will be based on published papers, a preprint, or new material not yet prepared in print. Please feel free to mention references to the papers in your write-up; journalists find such references very useful. Generally, journalists get most excited to learn about new material not yet prepared in print, so even if you have a few new details on previously published research, be sure to include them!

Additional guidelines

Historical background helps to place the work in context for the reporters. (Example: "Supernovae have been observed for centuries, but it is only in the last couple of decades that we have had the capability to simulate them in the laboratory.")

Avoid mathematical expressions and undefined jargon. When using numbers, try to describe their significance where appropriate (example: "Tabletop accelerators now have a repetition rate of 10 Hz, corresponding to 10 electron bursts per second, compared to previous tabletop acceleration rates of one burst per ten minutes."). Use technical terms where necessary, but be sure to define or describe the term in non-technical language the first time you use it [example: "Plasmas contain randomly fluctuating electric fields ('electrostatic turbulence') which are presently believed to play a major role in optimal conditions in a plasma."]

Describe the motivations and ultimate goals of the research. Will it lead to new devices or provide insight into a fundamental physics question? (Examples: "Our dusty plasma provides a simple system for gaining insights into the properties of solid and liquid matter at the atomic scale"; "Our gyrotron design, which generates microwaves at such ultra-high frequencies, might open new possibilities for medical imaging and communications.")

Quick Summary

  • Make the text non-technical by using everyday language, analogies, etc.
  • Use a concise, attractive title.
  • Up front in the press release, state what is new and important and why a general reader should care about it.
  • Make the press release fairly compressed (e.g., 2-3 paragraphs and a figure).
  • Try to provide a (color) graphic with popular appeal.
  • Provide hyper links to APS/DPP presentations.

The DPP General Press Release

After receiving all of the author summaries, the DPP Public Information Committee and science writers will choose 4 to 7 author summary topics to feature in a DPP General Press Release. They will choose the topics based on the quality of the write-ups, the scientific quality of the research, newsworthiness of the results, and their potential impact upon the general public, and their collective ability to provide a sample of the different areas of plasma physics research. For examples of previous DPP General Press Releases, please see: http://apsdpp.org/meetings/pressreleases.php