By Eric Sorensen, WSU News
From rising inequality and declining Monarch butterfly populations to a particle with negative mass, news coverage about Washington State University research reached millions of people last year.
News outlets ran the gamut of the nation’s most popular media, including CNN, The Washington Post and National Public Radio, as well as specialty science publications like Science and all the region’s major news vehicles.
The WSU Marketing and Communications office analyzed every research news story distributed to reporters from the central news office or posted to EurekAlert, a subscription news service sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Each news article was analyzed in the Cision news database, which monitors the vast majority of news outlets covering a given subject and computes their potential audience based on outlets’ circulations or unique visitors. The potential audience serves as a guide to relative popularity; the number of actual readers is significantly smaller, as readers and visitors rarely take in every story in a periodical or website.
Of all the stories generated by WSU public information officers, the most popular was a study by Regents Professor Tim Kohler looking at how prehistoric disparities in wealth mounted with the rise of agriculture, specifically the domestication of plants and large animals, and increased social organization. News stories on the Nature study appeared in the Washington Post, the news section of Science, the Guardian, Economist, National Public Radio and on a segment on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.” It had a potential audience of 491 million.
Physicist Michael Forbes’s Physical Review Letters paper on negative effective mass caught the eye of the Guardian, BBC, Yahoo!News and the social news aggregator Reddit. It had a potential audience of 399 million.
And a Biological Conservation study by Cheryl Schultz, associate professor at WSU Vancouver, was covered by the Tri-City Herald and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others. It had a potential audience of 327 million.
Stories generated by WSU communicators and posted to EurekAlert generated the bulk of media attention to the University research enterprise. One notable exception was doctoral student Ryne Rohla’s conclusion that political divisions were ruining Thanksgiving. Rohla, a doctoral candidate in economics, and UCLA Associate Professor Keith Chen used smartphone-tracking data and precinct-level voting to “show that politically-divided families shortened Thanksgiving dinners by 20-30 minutes following the divisive 2016 election.” The study had a combined potential audience of 536 million people and was covered by The Washington Post, Politico and CNN.
The top 20 stories are listed below with links to news releases, potential viewerships, top outlets in which they were featured, and possible reasons behind their success. Other WSU-stories are listed in order of popularity.
- Researchers chart rising wealth inequality across millennia
Economic inequality is currently part of the national conversation. Tax reform was looming as the study came out, and the United States has what Kohler called, “probably the highest wealth inequality for any developed country right now.”
- Smart city living lab partnership moves forwardAir quality sensors deployed in U. District smart city laboratory
- Fremier and salmon sex
The story would have done better if it was also about death and money, but it did have sex.
- Researchers develop recycling for carbon fiber composites
Numerous television news web sites.
This got a boost from an industry partner posting the story to a press release distribution service.
- Marijuana use may not aid patients in opioid addiction treatment
See reference to cannabis above.
- Novel 3-D manufacturing builds complex, bio-like materials
Science Blog, smattering of outlets, mostly techy
- Huge carbon sink exists in soil minerals WSU researcher finds
- Changing climate to bring more landslides on logged land WSU research shows
- Non-invasive prostate cancer diagnosing, monitoring
- Rewards treat alcohol abuse in those with mental illness
- IRS breaking law by mining data, probing social media, says WSU professor
- Fertility can hinge on uterus swimming conditions
- Algae cultivation technique could advance biofuels
- WSU looks for practices to thwart antimicrobial resistance
- Transformation of graphite into hexagonal diamond documented by WSU researchers
- High-efficiency building bloopers revealed through occupant studies
- Research advances energy savings for oil, gas industries
- WSU researchers see gene influencing performance of sleep-deprived people
- Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Heath professor named to National Academy of Medicine
- New catalyst meets challenge of cleaning exhaust from modern engines
- WSU researchers find wealth of fish at deep Hawaiian reef
- Researchers find new clues for nuclear waste cleanup
- WSU researchers see popular herbicide affecting health across generations
- Alternative to wasteful methane flaring developed by WSU researchers
- New way to characterize cellulose, advance bioproducts
- Grant will create fellowships for researchers with disabilities at WSU
- WSU researchers deliver first “nanotherapeutics” to tumor
- WSU physicists write with light, turn crystal into an electrical circuit
- WSU, PNNL convert biofuel waste into commodity, now targeting sewage sludge
- Experi-mint: Eucalyptus as alternative to dense jet fuel
- Computer approaches human skill for first time in brain challenge
- Global research team fills language gap in plant science
- Cassini spacecraft destruction bittersweet end for WSU alum
- WSU College of Medicine lands $10 million in new research grants
- Photographing the elusive, endangered lynx
- WSU receives NIH grant to study heart problems at molecular level
- Reducing opioid use via online pain management focus of $2.5M study
- Pacific NW raises a glass to perry — sparkling and still
- Algae cultivation technique could advance biofuels
- Natural plant defense could help fight cancer, Alzheimer’s
- Adults with disabilities benefitting from Affordable Care Act
- $1.77M NIH grant funds WSU professors’ smart-home technology research
- Vineyard, WSU scientists team up to battle orchard virus threat
- Pink snow mold destruction discovered in area wheat fields
- Sexual stereotypes can lead to unhealthy sexual relationships
- Researchers tackle impact of climate change on plants