From Instagram selfies to an ancient tattoo tool, Washington State University research made headlines around the world.
In 2019, the university distributed press releases for more than 65 scientific papers. The findings were seen potentially billions of times by readers and viewers worldwide, elevating WSU’s profile as a premier public research university.
The most popular stories of 2019 involved research that had a direct impact on human lives, particularly when it came to health—whether it was the finding that petting dogs and cats reduced stress, a discovery that the endocrine-disrupting chemical BPA was underestimated in humans or the potential of cannabis to relieve headaches. Two pieces on work and gender were also among the top research stories of 2019, not surprising given the advent of the #MeToo movement which caused many to look more closely at workplace relationships.
The WSU News staff analyzed the number of potential viewers or “reach” of each story similar to last year, but this time using Meltwater media tracking software, which replaced the former Cision. The new system now includes international media outlets as well as TV broadcasts, which provides a better representation of the audience of a given story. The potential “reach” number is a calculation based on each outlet’s circulation. In reality, the actual number is probably smaller because not every newspaper reader or TV viewer sees every article or segment. It is also an overlapping number, meaning one person who accesses different news sources may be counted multiple times, but it helps indicate how widely a story circulated.
Other big news:
While most research stories typically begin with peer-reviewed studies, two of the biggest stories of 2019 did not come directly from published papers:
How do you like them apples? The launch of the Cosmic Crisp apple in Dec. 2019 was the result of decades of work and a successful marketing effort which brought the story of the new WSU-developed apple to a potential 2.27 billion people. The apple’s taste and longevity has captured a lot of attention with more than 1,200 articles from NPR and The Wall Street Journal to Der Spiegel and the BBC, and the stories keep coming into 2020.
Earth to earth: Another big story came about organically when a Seattle company approached soil scientist Lynne Carpenter-Boggs in 2017 to conduct a pilot study on composting human remains. This year Washington became the first state to consider legalizing human composting, and more than 1,700 media outlets, including USA Today, the New York Times and the Washington Post ran stories which mentioned WSU’s role in the development, representing a potential reach of more than 3.28 billion.
Below are the top 10 research news stories of 2019 with links to their releases, reach numbers, examples of where they appeared and possible reasons behind their success. Following that is the rest of WSU research stories ranked by their reach.
Another study on how we present ourselves on Instagram captured more attention abroad than at home with several large media outlets in India reaching audiences in the millions.
- Grizzlies show remarkable gene control before and during hibernation
- Plastic water bottles may one day fly people cross-country
- WSU researchers see health effects across generations from popular weed killer
- Getting mac and cheese to Mars
- Capturing bacteria that eat and breathe electricity
- College‑age males at bars, parties more likely to be sexually aggressive
- Timed release of turmeric stops cancer cell growth
- WSU researchers grow citrus disease bacteria in the lab
- Study shows fewer American Indians getting heart disease
- Researchers develop viable, environmentally-friendly alternative to Styrofoam
- An electric tongue can handle more spicy foods than you can
- Looking at how the brain reacts to boredom could help people cope
- Genetic discovery holds implications for better immunity, longer life
- WSU study to examine health benefits of outdoor preschools
- Sustaining roads with grape and agricultural waste
- Sensor can detect spoiled milk before opening
- Catalyst advance removes pollutants at low temperatures
- Most teens report using marijuana less often after legalization
- WSU researchers tease out genetic differences between cannabis strains
- WSU smart home tests first elder care robot
- Researchers use game theory to successfully identify bacterial antibiotic resistance
- Unlocking secrets of the ice worm
- Researchers uncover indoor pollution hazards
- Predictive modeling could help fight neighborhood crime
- Making it count
- Plant immune response blueprint found; disease resistance targeted
- Bioinspired nanoscale drug delivery method developed by WSU, PNNL researchers
- New drug-delivery technology promises efficient, targeted cancer treatment
- Searching for the characteristics of award-winning wine
- Milk or no milk? Study fills long‑time knowledge gap on babies with genetic disorder
- Research shows boredom is on the rise for adolescents, especially girls
- WSU study shows insulin can increase mosquitoes’ immunity to West Nile virus
- Researchers develop new lens manufacturing technique
- Public support for environmental spending hinges on White House
- Speeding up science on near‑Earth asteroids
- Amid genomic data explosion, scientists find proliferating errors
- Living at the edges
- Saving sage-grouse by relocation
- Who dominates the discourse of the past?
- WSU study links gene to sleep problems in autism
- Skipping one night of sleep may leave insomniacs twice as impaired
- Researchers uncover hidden deicer risks affecting bridge health
- You did what with my donation? When donors feel betrayed by charities
- Witnessing uncivil behavior
- Study identifies a potential new target for treatment of gout
- High‑performance grout aims to encapsulate Hanford secondary waste
- WSU’s One Health approach is a two‑for‑one stop for health care in Tanzania
- Murrow professor investigates gender-inclusive housing and friendships
- Start-ups must be aware of star employee pitfalls
- Alcohol advertisements influence bystanders’ intention to intervene in a sexual assault situation
- New technology promises improved treatment of inflammatory diseases
- New WSU technology to improve delivery of anti‑inflammatory drugs
- Special journal issue highlights shift work science, solutions
- IQ test for artificial intelligence systems
- Attractive businesswomen viewed as less trustworthy “Femmes Fatales”