September 17, 2009
Futurity, an online outlet for research news, is launched by Stanford and other leading universities
A group of leading research universities including Stanford University has launched Futurity (futurity.org), an online site designed to showcase the latest research discoveries in science, engineering, the environment, health and more.
"I look at it as another opportunity for Stanford to have its news seen by more members of the public," said Lisa Lapin, one of Futurity's founders and assistant vice president for communications at Stanford. "It's one additional way among many things that we are doing at Stanford to try to get our news disseminated in an era of shrinking traditional news media."
"We have had huge success with things like Stanford on iTunes and YouTube," she said, "and we are having increasing success with Facebook and Twitter. This is basically another tool for the university to tell stories of discovery that are coming out of our research enterprise."
Lapin says Futurity is looking for new ways to extend the site's reach and is in partnership talks to distribute Futurity articles through Yahoo News and other major Internet news portals.
The site launched Wednesday featuring research news from 35 top universities in the United States and Canada. Several more universities have joined since then.
Lapin emphasized that Futurity will include humanities and social sciences stories in addition to "hard science" articles. She described the site as an ad-free, agenda-free approach to reporting exciting research news, with articles written by "excellent, highly trained journalists on our university news staffs, who in many cases have come from the traditional media." As print media has declined, many reporters have moved from newspapers to university news services, bringing with them ample experience and expertise.
Lapin said the site is designed to encourage interaction. Stories include links to published research 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 email update.
"Futurity is a direct link to the research pipeline. If you want a glimpse at where research is today and where it's headed tomorrow, Futurity offers that in a very accessible way," she said. "Today's online environment is perfectly suited for this type of direct communication."
Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations at Duke University, one of the participating institutions, said the site also 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," said 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 other cofounder of Futurity is Bill Murphy, vice president for communications at the University of Rochester.
All current partner universities are members of the Association of American Universities, a nonprofit organization of leading public and private research universities. Lapin says Futurity may revisit membership criteria down the road.