Peter Ralph and I’s article on the geography of recent genetic genealogy in Europe is out in PLOS Biology. We’ve written an FAQ on the paper, that we sent out with the press release. PLOS also has a synopsis of the article. The article has already gotten a bunch of coverage, a few of which are linked to here:
Carl Zimmer at the Loom, Nature News, Sciencenews, NBC, LA times
I’ll post more when I get a chance, the past couple of days were a little crazy with all of this.
One of the nice aspects is that the paper has been up on the arXiv as a preprint server since we 1st submitted the paper to PLOS Biology (in July 2012). I’ve written about our reasons for doing that here, and blogged about the paper here at Haldane’s sieve. The arXived paper has gathered a number of comments via Haldane’s Sieve, various other sources including emails from people. A number of these comments, especially by Amy Williams, were very useful in helping shape the final paper. This was feedback we would have never gotten if we hadn’t posted the paper. For example, I only met Amy at a conference after she had commented via Haldane’s sieve, although I’d known of her work (and enjoyed it, but would never have thought to ask her for comments). The paper has already gained a couple of citations via the arXiv. I also appreciate that PLOS has a clear policy on preprints, and had no issue with us blogging about the paper (also they liked the idea of the FAQ).
We had had gone back and forth of the issue of whether we should even do a press release, as their simple format sometimes lends itself to creating confusion (especially as some news outlets seem to just recycle parts of the press release). But we decided that the paper would likely get some coverage, even if we didn’t do a press release, so it was important to get it right. We worked with Andy Fell at UCdavis on the press release, who I’d followed via blogs and twitter, and he was great at talking to us about the work. We all did a bunch of work on the press release, and made sure that we were all totally happy with everything it said. However, having helped write that, and knowing how complex many of these issues are, we could see that there were a lot of basic questions that we wouldn’t be able to cover in a traditional press release format. So we were keen to try and avoid some of the confusion by writing an FAQ.
I think we also benefited a lot from writing the FAQ, especially in terms of getting much of the press coverage reasonably right. We sent it out as a link with our official press release, while the paper was under embargo, and referred all press contacts to it when we answered their questions. A number of the press/blog articles linked back to it. The FAQ has had 5000 views (as of today) presumably due to people following up on the press article. A number of the reporters had clearly read it before contacting us, which made things a lot easier. Also writing the FAQ prepared us somewhat for talking to the (few) journalists we talked to, as we had thought through the answers to basic questions. Peter and I have discussed turning the FAQs into some form of article (e.g. nonacademic) on issues concerning genetic and genealogical relatedness as there’s a tonne of neat and counter-intuitive ideas and facts out there to explain to folks. We’d definitely recommend considering writing FAQs for your articles, especially if they may get some press interest. We may try it for some of our others in the pipeline. It’s a lot of fun and also nice to take the time to clarify the tricky concepts that often go unexplained in scientific papers.
Anyhow, those are my thoughts so far.