Research News Standards

Research Communications Standards and Principles

As the official source of external communications for Michigan Medicine, the Department of Communication actively seeks to promote research news from across our academic medical center.  

We take seriously our responsibility to help the press and public understand the work of one of the nation’s largest biomedical research institutions. Our team creates original articles, videos, podcasts, images, illustrations and social media campaigns, and promotes them to the news media and the general public. We engage daily with reporters seeking experts to comment on their own work or the work of others.

A Position of Extreme Care

We have adopted a position of extreme care regarding research in early stages, including preprints, which are non-peer reviewed research articles available online. (see below)

We take special care regarding work on COVID-19 and other life-threatening conditions, in which official communications from the institution may be viewed by patients and clinicians as an endorsement of the use of that research to guide clinical care of patients with few options.

In all public-facing research communications, we seek to:

  • Not raise false hope, or overstate implications of research of any kind
  • Accurately reflect the nature, scope and potential impact of the project or results being shared, including key statistical information and limitations
  • Focus mainly on peer-reviewed publications, and on selected reports, polls and policy-related milestones that fall outside the academic peer review process
  • Disclose any individual or institutional conflicts of interest
  • Include the source of funding
  • Abide by regulatory requirements for promoting human subjects research when communicating about an active clinical study, and link to IRB-approved information for prospective volunteers
  • Include links to citable sources whenever possible

Our Approach to Research Papers

While we cannot cover every one of the thousands of research papers our faculty, staff and students publish each year, nor all of their projects, we always welcome ideas and suggestions.

We also welcome the opportunity to work with communicators from other areas of U-M, and from funding agencies and other institutions, on cross-promotion of interdisciplinary and multi-institution work.

Promotion of Preprints

Only on rare occasions will the Department of Communication engage in active promotion of preprints, and only with the consensus of panel of experienced research communicators. Any such communication will include prominent and clear disclaimers about the status of the research, and about the need for peer review before any use in clinical care or health policy decisions.

Faculty involved in writing preprints should connect with members of the Public Relations team to prepare for interactions with any reporters or others after the preprint appears. They may also contact the team to discuss responsible sharing of information on their personal social media channels.

New Projects and Clinical Studies

For new and ongoing projects, including clinical studies:

The Department of Communication will carefully consider requests from faculty for proactive communications, and proceed carefully until peer-reviewed published results are available.

We will give special consideration to instances where past research done at our university, or by our faculty at their prior institution, is ready for translation into clinical testing or clinical use.

For Researchers Contacted by Reporters

Researchers contacted directly by reporters about new or ongoing research projects are strongly encouraged to speak with a member of the Public Relations team before engaging.

For Research Teams Seeking Clinical Study Volunteers

We encourage research teams seeking clinical study volunteers to engage with MICHR to formulate a recruitment communications strategy.

We highly encourage our communications colleagues in departments, centers, programs and institutes to abide by these same standards and principles in the channels they control, and to work in concert with the Department of Communication team.

Failure to do so could affect the trust that the public, and the research community, place in us as a leading academic medical center.