Breaking up with EurekAlert!: Where to find other studies

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Photo: Tim Malabuyo via Flickr

Photo: Tim Malabuyo via Flickr

In a previous blog post about EurekAlert!, I described some advantages to using the service less often than many reporters new to the health beat often do. But that post didn’t address how you can start leaving those EurekAlert! email updates unopened in your inbox.

Here are several tips to help you become less dependent on EurekAlert!. Tip: These alternatives can result in adding email alerts to your inbox each day, so it may be worth setting up a dedicated email address for all the lists you’re on.

  1. Develop a list of the journals that you determine are putting out better quality work. That doesn’t necessarily mean journals with the highest impact factor, and you should be as amenable to high-quality, open-access journals as the more old-school ones. But find out – by talking to researchers themselves and other journalists – what journals are among the better ones in their fields. Set up alerts for “Online First” articles (or the equivalent) so that you’ll receive an email each time a new article goes live. You may not get the advance notice you’d get with an embargoed article, but if few others are likely to cover it the extra time is less relevant.
  2. With those same journals, set up “table of contents” alerts to receive an email of all the articles in each issue just as, or just before, the issue comes out. Many articles will have already appeared online first, but others have not, so there’s still an opportunity to cover interesting studies you missed when they were published online.
  3. As you learn which researchers interest you the most (because of their area of expertise, leadership in the field or publishing prolifically or some other reason) go to PubMed and set up author alerts. You can set them to email you each day that author’s next study is added to PubMed, or once a week or month on a day of your choice. This is a great way to keep tabs on the ongoing research in certain areas even if I’m not going to report on it right away. In fact, several feature ideas have arisen from seeing clusters of studies on a similar interesting topic from the same author.
  4. Next, set up PubMed alerts for particular specific searches. This is only effective if you have areas that you have a very specific interest in that can be narrowed down by several key words, or else you’ll end up with a deluge of studies. But sometimes a handful of words, such as “gun violence schools,” can yield some interesting studies.
  5. Regularly ask sources during interviews if they have any new or interesting research that’s likely to be published soon. Make this a habit with every researcher who you interview and you may learn about a study before it’s published. While you might not get access to it before publication, you won’t have a problem getting an interview with the author.
  6. Find researchers in particular areas that interest you on Twitter and create a list of them to follow. Check the list daily to see if any of them are tweeting interesting studies. You’d be surprised (at least if you’re not already on Twitter regularly) how many researchers tweet URLs to their studies or others’ research they found interesting.

These suggestions are just a start and perhaps low-hanging fruit. But if you’re just in the early stages of weaning yourself off an exclusive EurekAlert! diet, these are nice stepping stones to getting outside that box. If you have other tips for covering medical research without relying too heavily on EurekAlert! or other embargo services, please add them to the comment section.


5 thoughts on “Breaking up with EurekAlert!: Where to find other studies

  1. Richard Kirkner

    I just tried signing up for Eureka Alert for the second time in five years, and the hoops they expect you to jump through are unrelenting. After going through the online sign-up process, I got an e-mail from an editorial assistant asking me for links to three articles (which I provided in the online sign-up) and then to provide a letter from one of the editors I write for. Really, I hate bothering editors for this kind of nonsense. Geesh! I tried to sign up for Eureka Alert at the AHCJ conference a few years ago and the rep told me that because I write occasional press releases (for a client whom I never cover) I was not eligible for Eureka Alert. Well, I got along all this time without it, so I guess I’m not missing anything except jumping through their hoops. Seems like an odd way to run a press release service, but I can’t imagine it’s worth these hassles. Don’t waste your time.

  2. Norman Bauman

    I use Feedly , an RSS reader, to follow my favorite journals. All the journals have RSS feeds, which is usually an abstract.

    (Feedly is the successor to Google Reader, which I used to use until Google discontinued it.)

    The only disadvantage to Feedly is that I don’t get embargoed material. But then, I don’t get embargoed material on PubMed, which I also search every week with a custom search.

  3. Shawn Radcliffe

    Google Scholar is another way to keep track of new publications from researchers. Some researchers have a Google Scholar profile. If so, you can subscribe to it and receive alerts by email when their new publications get indexed by Google.

    Like Norman, I moved to Feedly when Google Reader ended. I find Feedly to be a great way to keep track of new journal articles. It’s also good way to follow health writing websites, e.g. AHCJ, Retraction Watch.

    And I agree with asking researchers about their upcoming papers. Some researchers that I have interviewed before will even email me when they are about to publish a new paper.

  4. Terry Griffin

    Thanks for the concrete tips for setting up searches to find content for my beat (mostly behavioral health, some social services). I like Eureka Alert press releases because they have contact info for a media rep. I’m annoyed with PR Web and its ilk because they often lack a media contact point, and don’t make it easy to reach a real person to ask questions about the content.

  5. Bonny McClain

    I was attending AAAS as media and Eureka Alert was sponsoring–they would not give me access!? They said it was because I work in digital media and was not associated with a print publication.

    I have alerts from several publishers and when queried for full articles–they always send them along promptly…easy to not need Eureka.

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