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New university research news channel, Futurity, goes global

Mar. 9, 2010, 2:33 PM

Futurity.org, an online university news channel targeted to members of the public interested in basic research, has expanded beyond its North American base to include science news from leading British universities.

Vanderbilt was one of the founding members from the Association of American Universities (AAU) – a nonprofit organization of leading public and private research universities in the United States and Canada – who launched the site last fall in response to the dramatic decline in the traditional media’s coverage of newsworthy scientific and academic activities.

In the last five months, Futurity stories describing the latest discoveries in the fields of health, culture, environment, science, engineering and technology from the 46 member universities have attracted more than 400,000 visitors.

“We know that there is a significant segment of the public that is actively interested in news about university research,” said Beth Fortune, Vanderbilt’s vice chancellor for public affairs. “Futurity has demonstrated that it can provide this information in a compelling and understandable form.”

In January, Futurity’s members agreed to expand membership to the Russell Group, which represents the 20 leading research universities in the U.K. So far, the Universities of Cardiff, Leeds, Nottingham, Sheffield and Warwick, King’s College London and University College London have joined Futurity.

“The Russell Group members have been impressed by the depth and quality of Futurity’s research news—and by the freshness of its approach,” said Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group. “Our universities have some great stories to tell about the discoveries made by their world-class research teams and this is an excellent opportunity to do so.”

Futurity is edited by Jenny Leonard, who is based at the University of Rochester. “Futurity has found an audience among consumers of news who find less and less about research in the newspapers and television they see every day,” she said. “Those ‘traditional’ consumers are joined by younger readers who prefer to find their news ‘unfiltered’ on the Web. We are trying to serve both groups, and we are delighted with the enthusiasm that our new British partners bring to the effort.”

Recent Vanderbilt stories featured on the site include:
• Discovery of a new type of genetic variation that may explain how some organisms, including bacterial pathogens, adapt rapidly to new stresses;
• Identification of the structure of an enzyme essential of the protozoan parasite that spreads sleeping sickness that could lead to new drugs to combat the often fatal disease;
• Progress in efforts to combat the spread of malaria by tricking the mosquito’s nose;
• Results of a test that finds a treatment called cognitive behavioral intervention can help prevent depression in families.

Contact: David F. Salisbury, (615) 322-NEWS
david.salisbury@vanderbilt.edu

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