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Got News?

Why?
What?
Who?
When?
How?
How can NASA, JPL and the SSC help?
News Products
News Preparation: Procedures & Timelines
Special Circumstances
The Spitzer News Team

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Why?
The 1958 Congressional Act giving birth to NASA mandates that the Agency "provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information concerning its activities and the results thereof." One of the three Agency-wide Missions, according to the NASA Strategic Plan, is "to advance and communicate scientific knowledge and understanding of the Earth, the Solar System, and the universe." The Space Science Enterprise strongly encourages NASA-funded researchers to not only publish their scientific results in professional journals, but to actively participate in one of its Goals; namely, to "share the excitement and knowledge generated by scientific discovery and improve science education."

In an era of budget pressures, NASA space science continues to receive substantial funding and enjoys the widespread support of the public. This is no doubt a result of the effective dissemination of scientific discoveries and results to the news media, the scientific community, educators, students, and the general public.

The publication and dissemination of Spitzer Space Telescope science results is critical in assessing the success of the mission, and its contributions to NASA's strategic plans in space science. The Spitzer research community is reminded of the important responsibility inherent in utilizing this (inter)national resource, and in sharing the scientific results with the general public.

This Web site is intended to assist you -- the scientist -- in identifying potential newsworthy results in advance of publication. Moreover, suggestions are provided on how you can work with the Spitzer Science Center (SSC) at the California Institute of Technology, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and NASA to generate materials that will maximize the news impact of your scientific findings.

What?
There is not always a correlation between the significance of scientific findings, as determined by the scientific community, and the level of public interest. As a general guideline, 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.
  • Represent an incremental, yet important, knowledge gain in a given area.
  • Set a new astronomical record or benchmark, or possess an element of novelty.
  • Provide images that are visually striking and have aesthetic appeal, even though there is no new science.
  • Deal with unpredicted, transient events.
  • Provide new insight into one of the following popular astronomical topics: cosmology, extrasolar planets, black holes, dark matter, solar system objects, distant galaxies, Earth's evolution, fate of the Sun, or the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

[Thanks to the STScI Office of Public Outreach for these guidelines.]

Who?
You! If your Spitzer Space Telescope research meets at least one of the above guidelines, you may have a newsworthy result that could be of interest beyond the pages of scientific journals. In that case, you should contact the SSC Director's Office via the electronic helpdesk. Please be sure to include the phrase "PROTO-NEWS CANDIDATE" in your subject line. Decisions on which findings and stories to promote in the news media will be made in regular meetings of scientific staff and public affairs personnel at the NASA Headquarters Office of Space Science, at JPL and at the SSC.

Please note that NASA has "first rights" to all Spitzer- related news, and that NASA's policy is to distribute all news fairly and equitably. This policy prohibits exclusive news releases, which greatly diminish the impact of potential of scientific findings and limits widespread access to them. While your home institution is welcome to develop a separate (and parallel) news release, it must be done in coordination with NASA, JPL and the SSC.

When?
In general, you should contact the SSC as soon as you believe that your results may be newsworthy. If possible, this should occur prior to submission of your manuscript to the astro-ph preprint server. This schedule will permit adequate time to develop an approved press release and supplementary images, animation and Web sites by the time your results are accepted for publication or presented at a scientific conference.

How?
Research findings deemed to be newsworthy may be packaged for release in one or more of the following ways.

NASA Space Science Update Press Conference

  • Criterion
    • Major discovery of importance to the general public
  • Prerequisites
    • Accepted paper
    • Release date timed to journal publication
  • Distribution
    • TV press conference at NASA-HQ, broadcast via NASA-TV
    • E-mail and/or fax notification (by JPL and NASA)
    • NewsRoom section of Spitzer Space Telescope public Web site
    • Video file on NASA-TV
    • Video news release provided to major TV news outlets
NASA/JPL News Release
  • Criterion
    • Significant science of importance to the general public
  • Prerequisites
    • Accepted paper
    • Release date timed to journal publication or professional meeting
  • Distribution
    • E-mail and/or fax notification (by JPL and NASA)
    • NewsRoom section of Spitzer Space Telescope public Web site
    • Video file on NASA-TV
    • Video news release provided to major TV news outlets
NASA/JPL Image Release
  • Criteria
    • Image of interest for aesthetic or educational reasons, OR
    • Image linked to a specific event (e.g., comet impact on Jupiter)
  • Prerequisites
    • No major science announcement accompanies image
    • Release date not timed to journal publication
  • Distribution
    • E-mail and/or fax notification (by JPL and NASA)
    • NewsRoom section of Spitzer Space Telescope public Web site
How can NASA, JPL and the SSC help?
Spitzer Space Telescope public affairs activities are a collaborative endeavor between NASA's Office of Space Science, the JPL Media Relation Office and the SSC Director's Office. While press releases will be written and edited by NASA and JPL, much of the "machinery" behind the release (e.g., image composition/refinement, supporting animations and graphics, Web-based background materials) will be planned and developed by the SSC. All Spitzer press releases will be archived in the NewsRoom section of the public Web site maintained at the SSC.

Listed below are some of the products and services available at NASA/JPL/SSC in support of Spitzer public affairs. As a Principal Investigator, you will have the opportunity to review and approve all materials created in support of your newsworthy scientific results.

Science Communication
Translation of scientific findings into accurate, complete and understandable press releases, image captions and other informational material for news media and the public.

Image Processing, Composition and Enhancement
Design layout and refinement of Spitzer Space Telescope images/spectra as digital images for easy reproduction by news media.

Science Visualization
Creation of illustrations, simplified diagrams and video animation that help in the portrayal and interpretation of scientific results.

Video Production
Preparation of videotaped elements supporting a news release.

News Coordination
Collaboration with press office of the home institution to simultaneously issue releases of newsworthy research. If scientific findings are being announced at a professional science conference, the JPL/SSC news team will prepare the materials needed by reporters in the conference press room. The JPL/Spitzer Media Representative usually serves as the point of contact, filtering and coordinating media requests for interviews so that the Principal Investigator and collaborators are not inundated with queries.

Access to News Distribution Networks
Distribution of press releases to several hundred reporters and science journalists internationally through the Web, E-mail and/or fax notification services.

Education and Public Outreach (EPO) Dissemination
Spitzer Space Telescope data and information on scientific findings are incorporated, as appropriate, into a variety of Spitzer educational products and Web sites. These materials are made widely available to educators, planetariums and science museums.

News Products
The JPL/SSC News Team will prepare the following products in support of news releases.

Press Package
The package is an assembly of release materials, including the NASA/JPL press release, photo(s) with caption(s), graphics, videos/animations, ancillary image(s), and background information pertaining to the target(s), observation(s) and phenomenology. The press package is available on the Spitzer public Web site following its release. A few days beforehand, registered members of the media can obtain an advance version of the package, subject to embargo protection until the date of release.

Video File
Selected video scenes that may be useful to broadcasters producing a news segment, including animation of the phenomenon, interviews with the Principal Investigators and images specially processed or formatted for television presentation. The scenes are broadcast on the NASA satellite during their daily news feeds.

Video News Release
A short edited videotape (similar to a news segment) providing a suggested presentation of the news as well as the video scenes needed to produce a news segment. A video news release typically includes animation of the phenomenon, interviews with science investigators, and images specially processed or formatted for television presentation. Video news releases, protected by an embargo date, are mailed to major television news outlets in advance of a release to give science editors time to sell the story to news producers and prepare their news segment.

Educational Materials
In addition to public affairs use, Spitzer Space Telescope images and data can be integrated into educational products, including interactive Web resources for the classroom, posters and videos. These materials are available to educators, planetariums, and science museums. They are distributed by mail, at workshops and at national meetings of education professionals.

News Preparation: Procedures & Timelines
Scientists should alert the Director's Office of the Spitzer Science Center (SSC/DO) via the electronic helpdesk regarding a possible newsworthy result and the status of scientific publication. Please be sure to include the phrase "PROTO-NEWS CANDIDATE" in the subject line of your email alert. The SSC/DO will make a preliminary assessment of newsworthiness and the type of release appropriate for the material. The SSC/DO will provide a recommendation regarding the release to NASA for approval to proceed.

Once the findings are accepted for release, the SSC/DO will initiate a teleconference in which the Principal Investigator describes the research findings to the Spitzer news team. By the end of the meeting the news team determines which news products will effectively support the release and identifies a timeline for production and review of products. For Space Science Update press conferences, a series of teleconferences with NASA headquarters staff, SSC/JPL staff, and other participants is planned during the news production cycle.

It typically takes 4-6 weeks to prepare a news release.
Therefore, it is important that SSC/DO be contacted well in advance of a refereed publication or conference deadline, and that the SSC/DO news release timelines and scheduled deliverables are honored. The press release date often coincides with acceptance of the research for publication in a journal or announcement at a conference.

During production, the JPL/Spitzer News Media Representative drafts the news release and works with the Principal Investigator until both are satisfied that the release is accurate and appropriate for the media. At the same time, the Spitzer news team begins to prepare the release image(s) and other news products. An SSC scientist or other designated person typically will work with the Principal Investigator and/or collaborators to obtain background information for supplementary materials. The Principal Investigator is the primary contact for the investigative team. He/she reviews draft release materials and is available for further revisions of the release package, and is responsible for ensuring scientific accuracy and timely reviews of materials.

Special Circumstances
The requirement for findings to be accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal may be waived under the following special circumstances.

Presentations at Scientific Conferences
Findings presented at scientific conferences such as those convened by the American Astronomical Society (AAS) or its Division of Planetary Sciences (DPS) often are not refereed. In this case, the meeting press officer may invite a researcher to submit a news release or participate in a press conference. Using the same scientific review process for a regular news release, the Spitzer Science Center Director's Office will assess the research findings for possible co-release.

Image Releases
When the data are no longer proprietary, Spitzer Space Telescope images may be released because of their aesthetic value, as long as the caption does not make any major scientific claims that would warrant a peer review.

The Spitzer News Team
The Spitzer news team includes representatives from the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech, the JPL Media Relations Office and JPL Spitzer Project Office, and from NASA Headquarters.

  • SSC/Caltech
    • Dr. Gordon K. Squires, Assistant Director for Public Affairs
    • Dr. Robert Hurt, Image/Animation Specialist
    • Dr. George Helou, Deputy Director
    • Dr. B. Thomas Soifer, Director
  • JPL
    • Ms. Jane Platt, Deputy News Chief
    • Dr. Michael Werner, Project Scientist
    • Ms. Whitney Clavin, Media Relations Specialist
    • Ms. Gay Yee-Hill, Media Relations Specialist
  • NASA HQ
    • Dr. Douglas Hudgins, Spitzer Program Scientist
    • Jaya Bajpayee, Program Manager
    • J.D. Harrington, Public Affairs Officer