There is no shortage of benefits for scientists – young and well-tenured – to publicize their research beyond peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations. And yet, few scientists look beyond the pages of their discipline’s journal to showcase their work.

While all researchers should strive to translate their work for mass consumption, the scientist’s day is a long one, and often this task is overshadowed by more pressing issues of academia; grants, lectures, publications, conferences, student’s dissertations, etc.

Part of the problem is that many researchers fail to recognize the more tangible benefits of exposing their research to a greater audience.

Take for example the findings of a 2003 study by Vincent Kiernan in the Chronicle of Higher Education which clearly shows a strong relationship between the media exposure of a given study and the resulting rate of citation of that work in the scientific literature in the ensuing years.

First, the author of the study found that studies that were covered by at least one media outlet were cited an average of 116 times in the following 4 years compared to 90 citations for those studies that failed to make any media splash (p < 0.001).

For journalists as well as scientists, making it into the New York Times is a career dream. And for good reason.

The findings of this analysis suggest that each every one hundred words of New York Times coverage of a study was associated with seven additional citations of that journal article.

Of course, getting your research mentioned in any newspaper can benefit your citation record, though not quite as profoundly as a mention in the New York Times.

Specifically, for every additional 100 words of newspaper coverage (aside from the Times) of a journal article was associated with one additional citation of that journal article.

The study was conducted by comparing news coverage of four journals that are commonly covered by the general media— Journal of the American Medical Association, Nature, New England Journal of Medicine, and Science—with the rates at which articles published in those journals were subsequently cited in other peer-reviewed journals.

Of course a few caveats must be mentioned.

While media coverage of research surely might inflate the citations of a research paper, countless other factors may also be at play here.

The author of the study has the following to say:

However, media coverage is far from a complete explanation of scientists’
citation behaviors; the regression analysis explained a very low proportion
of variance in citation rates, so other factors are clearly at play as well.

Nevertheless, these findings will hopefully encourage those fence-sitters inside the academe to engage with media in any ways possible, not only for the altruistic goal of increasing public understanding of science and medicine, but for the selfish reason of increasing the citations of their work.

Peter