Cutting-edge research stories were once staples of nearly every daily newspaper, but as pressure from the internet forced most publishers to reduce the size of their issues and their staff, coverage of science news has dramatically declined.
Now, 35 leading research universities have joined together to create Futurity.org, a unique, online research news channel dedicated to showcasing the best of American university research.
"Futurity is a direct link to the research pipeline. If you want a glimpse of where research is today and where it's headed tomorrow, Futurity offers that in a very accessible way," said Lisa Lapin, one of Futurity's cofounders and assistant vice president for communications at Stanford University. "Today's online environment is perfectly suited for this type of direct communication. There's something very natural about universities working together to share knowledge."
According to Lapin, Futurity was created because the pressures of the internet have caused many newspapers to trim the very stories that many readers have relied on to keep them up-to-date on the latest research discoveries.
Bill Murphy, a Futurity cofounder and vice president for communications at the University of Rochester agrees, noting that Futurity also fulfills the desire of universities to reach out to the public.
"In light of the shifting news landscape, universities are looking for new ways to share important breakthroughs with the public. Futurity gives our partners an opportunity to communicate in a novel and direct way—and to remind the public why research matters," Murphy said.
Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations at Duke University, said 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 to communicate together in such a collaborative way," says Schoenfeld, a Futurity cofounder. "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."
The site currently features research news from 35 top universities in the United States and Canada (see list below).
All of the stories on Futurity are edited to stir the imagination, says Murphy. "We want the stories to engage readers, to raise questions, and to make readers want to learn more—and to come back for more."
Lapin 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."
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.
All current partner universities are members of the Association of American Universities (AAU), a nonprofit organization of leading public and private research universities founded in 1900. Lapin says Futurity may relax membership criteria eventually but will keep the numbers manageable at the project's beginning.
James Grant, executive director of media relations at USC, says Futurity in many ways builds a bridge between the scientific community and the larger world. "Futurity creates a space where universities can share fascinating, thought-provoking ideas," adds Grant. "Really, it gets to the heart of what all great universities do best: educate and inform."
For more information, please contact:
Assistant Vice President, Communications
Vice President, Communications
University of Rochester
Vice President, Public Affairs and Government Relations
Futurity participating universities:
Carnegie Mellon University
Case Western Reserve University
Iowa State University
Johns Hopkins University
Michigan State University
New York University
Pennsylvania State University
Stony Brook University
University of California - Berkeley
University of California - Irvine
University of Chicago
University of Colorado at Boulder
University of Iowa
University of Kansas
University of Michigan
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Pennsylvania
University of Rochester
University of Southern California
University of Texas at Austin
University of Washington
Washington University in St. Louis