Science mags under the microscope

With scientific issues never far from headlines, Alex Black asks the two prominent science weeklies about their editorial stance, what makes a story relevant and how PROs can meet their demanding requirements

Last week, six scientists were awarded the coveted Nobel prize. Three were recognised for their work in organic chemistry, with the others lauded for their efforts in 'laser-based precision spectroscopy'.

When they are not saving the world with scientific breakthroughs, what do these people read to keep them in the loop? There are a number of science magazines, each with their own slant. Some, such as National Geographic, are famous for their spectacular photojournalism. Others, such as The Ecologist, are geared more towards environmental issues.

For PROs, some of the best opportunities for coverage come from weeklies, including Nature and New Scientist. Weber Shandwick account manager Cyril Moloney says the titles are open to ideas but will blow you out of the water if you do not know your product. 'They will often take a story idea on board but then shelve it for a while. You have to keep giving them briefings so they have the most up-to-date info,' he adds.

Porter Novelli UK healthcare director Rebecca Hunt advises: 'Some require features, others product news, others expert comment or insight.' She warns that research sent to the magazines needs to be exact and proven.  'They will require a full copy of the research findings rather than an abridged version,' she says.

Pictures and personal touches
Stories have to be timely, but PROs can force the issue slightly, claims Cicada PR account manager Liz Rogers. 'Try hitting the regional and national press first,' she explains. 'If your story gets picked up by the nationals, you can take it to the science press as a hot topic.'

She adds: 'Images are often very important, too. We've built a database of professional photos, so we can come straight back with a selection of high-quality images if necessary.'
New Scientist news editor Matt Walker adds a caveat: 'Don't send photos on spec – they clog up the email. If we want an image, we'll ask.'

So if sending a striking image is out as a tool for getting story pitches noticed, what does work? 'Adding personal touches, such as labelling the press release for the attention of the relevant
section editor, would certainly help get your story noticed,' advises Walker.

New Scientist
News editor Matt Walker
Frequency Weekly
Press day Tuesday
Circulation 161,506 (worldwide)
Contact or

What makes it into New Scientist?
We cover all science – from sleep to nuclear physics – but just because a story has a scientific angle, it does not mean it's for us. There have to be far-reaching
implications behind it.

So it's all fairly highbrow?
No, we also run humourous or quirky stories, and 'aesthetically pleasing' stories on topics such as
zoology or cosmology. Although it's not always possible to achieve, our stories should appeal to both a Nobel Prize winner and a 17-year-old.

That's quite a wide audience
Yes, but you can divide our audience into three.
A third work in the science community, a third used to work in science or have an education in science, and the rest just have an interest. The average audience age is dropping to early-40s or even late-30s.

What can PROs do to help?
Get in contact by email (see above). If they go to the central addresses, more people can access them.

What's in this week's issue?
A piece on bird flu and an analysis on the global response. We're also covering research that change the evolutionary history of birds by millions of years.

News editor Jo Marchant
Frequency Weekly
Press day Tuesday
Circulation 65,000

Explain your editorial stance
We cover funding, policy, the scientific community and scientific results that affect the wider world. We take an evidence-based view using honest and accurate information. We are against the
politicisation of science.

Who reads the magazine?
Research scientists and people who work full-time in the industry – everyone from research students to heads of institutes. We also cater for a general-interest science audience, particularly on our
website, which has daily updates.

What makes a good story?
It has to have a global angle and appeal to a wide readership. A good topic for a feature is an issue that will change something fundamental – either in the scientific or wider world. It could be a new project or a new expedition to an exciting place.

What's coming up in this week's issue?
There are news stories about more 'hobbit' remains, HIV in Africa and nuclear materials. For features we're covering pharmas and Brazil's savannah.

Advice for PROs please...
If they put two lines at the top of the email explaining why it's a story for us, it will stand out a mile.

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