It is NASA policy that scientists supported by NASA will release newsworthy discoveries to the public through NASA channels. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) news branch supports NASA in disseminating research about the Hubble Space Telescope’s findings, and, in the future, the James Webb Space Telescope’s findings, by preparing and disseminating news releases that frequently reach hundreds of millions of people nationally on behalf of scientists. Through our news channel, researchers enjoy the widest possible distribution to numerous kinds of media and, in turn, the public.
NASA has the first right of refusal for all Hubble news releases, and the STScI news team acts as an advocate for science teams by bringing new results to NASA’s attention. This policy prohibits exclusive news stories, which have proven to greatly diminish the potential impact of scientific findings and limit widespread access.
Scientific findings capture the public’s attention for a variety of reasons. Findings are newsworthy if they:
- Represent a major discovery of a new phenomenon or class of object.
- Decisively settle an area of controversy in astronomy.
- Present a new mystery or unexpected new complexity to some known phenomenon.
- Represent a significant step forward in a specific research area.
- Set a new astronomical record or benchmark, or possess an element of novelty.
- Deal with unpredicted, transient events.
- Provide new insight into one of the following popular astronomical topics: cosmology, extrasolar planets, planetary disks, astrobiology, black holes, solar system objects, distant galaxies, exotic astrophysics, and Earth’s evolution.
How the Process Works
Submitting Your Idea
If you have a result that you believe will be interesting to the public, please submit your idea. The news team, which includes the news chief, scientists, technical writers, and graphic image and video producers, will make a preliminary assessment of the newsworthiness of your result using the criteria described above. If we are interested in learning more, we will set up a teleconference with you to discuss your findings. If you haven’t heard from us two weeks after your submission, please follow up with us.
Though a peer-reviewed publication is a prerequisite for a news release, we make a few exceptions: solar system discoveries announced in an International Astronomical Union Circular and presentations at professional science conferences, such as the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting and occasionally the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) meeting.
It typically takes four to six weeks to prepare a news release, accompanying graphics, and video, if available, and request NASA’s review and approval of the entire package. It is important to contact our team well in advance of a publication or conference deadline.
Keeping Your Research Confidential
If you have a major discovery, it is advisable to refrain from posting details on public sites like Astro-Ph until a news release is issued. Science journalists, who routinely scan sites like this for story ideas, do not have the same reach that our team does, which may preempt wider coverage of your research. The STScI news team protects research results and coordinates with journals who also may have release restrictions (e.g., Nature and Science).
Naming a Principal Investigator for Reviews
If your submission is accepted, it is critical that you are available to participate in revisions of the news release and any of its supporting products. If you have completed research as a part of a team, we ask that you name a news principal investigator (PI) to represent your group and ensure scientific accuracy and timely reviews. It is also your responsibility to submit a copy of your final paper to our team following its publication.
The Review Process
Once the STScI news team approves the release, we send it to the relevant project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Headquarters, and any consulting scientists at STScI for review. The NASA newsroom may choose to issue a simplified version of the release, but the full story as written and approved at STScI with your partnership will be posted on STScI news sites (including HubbleSite.org) and distributed to news media.
Sending the Release
The news release date often coincides with acceptance of the publication of your research in a journal or an announcement at a conference. News releases tied to the publications that require strict news embargo times, like Nature and Science, will be coordinated by our news team. We will also coordinate with the press office of your employer or university to ensure it is disseminated to local media.
To increase the reach of a news release, our news team also may ask that you participate in various social media opportunities that we will arrange on your behalf.