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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.