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Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

Rochester leads top universities to launch Futurity.org

There’s a smarter way to get research news now. A new Web site called Futurity (www.futurity.org) features the latest discoveries from leading universities. The site is the project of a 35-university consortium led by Duke University, Stanford University, and the University of Rochester. It is hosted at Rochester and edited by Jenny Leonard from University Communications.

Futurity covers research news in the sciences, engineering, health, business, and the humanities. It is designed to offer the public direct access to exciting research breakthroughs in a commercial-free environment.

Bill Murphy, one of Futurity’s cofounders and vice president for communications at Rochester, says the project was driven in part by the challenges facing newspapers today. Those challenges affect universities, he adds, as coverage of research-related stories continues to shrink.

“In light of this shifting news landscape, universities are looking for ways to share important breakthroughs with the public. Futurity gives Rochester and our partners an opportunity to communicate in a new and direct way—and to remind the public why research matters.”

Futurity cofounder Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations at Duke, says the site serves another vital role. It allows the public to see how federal, state, and private funding are being put to use by universities to address critical challenges.

“It’s not often you see high-powered universities working together in such a collaborative way,” says Schoenfeld. “That fact alone indicates the project’s significance. Universities are the world’s laboratories. They host the brightest minds working to answer some of today’s most urgent questions. The breadth and caliber—and the collective force—of the research featured on Futurity is truly extraordinary.”

All of the stories on Futurity are edited to engage the reader, says Murphy. “We want the stories to raise questions and to make readers want to learn more—and to come back for more.”

Since launching a beta version in March, Futurity has continued to add membership and readership.

Lisa Lapin, assistant vice president for communications at Stanford, says Futurity is looking for new ways to extend the site’s reach. “We’re active on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. We’re also in partnership talks with major Internet news providers. Today’s online environment is perfectly suited for this type of direct communication. There’s something very authentic about universities working together to share ideas.”

Lapin says the site is designed to encourage interaction. Stories include links to published reports and supplemental materials that allow readers to explore topics in more detail. The site is available in a mobile friendly version, and visitors can comment on stories and sign up for a daily e-mail update.

Rochester, like all the current partner universities, is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), a nonprofit organization of leading public and private research universities. Murphy says Futurity may revisit membership criteria down the road but needs to keep the numbers manageable while they fine-tune the approach.

Futurity has featured a number of studies by Rochester scientists in recent weeks, including the results of cardiac therapy trails led by Professor of Medicine Arthur Moss that found a combination therapy can significantly reduce the risk of heart failure.

Futurity’s editor, Jenny Leonard, says the site offers Rochester a unique way to share its discoveries with new audiences. “This really is the cutting edge of communications. The tone and presentation are modern and very appealing. Yet, the project is driven by what I see as a timeless mission for all great universities—to share knowledge, to inform, and to stir the imagination.”

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