Herschel Science Communications and Outreach
Communicating your Herschel results
The importance of publishing scientific results based on Herschel in the scientific literature goes without saying. It is also important and a stated ESA objective to disseminate the achievements of Herschel and its scientific results to a wider audience, including the media and the general public. ESA wants to facilitate this by creating win-win situations with Herschel observers, their institutes, national organisations, and funding agencies (as applicable in each particular case). Here is how.
What ESA can do
The most common form of ESA communications is by means of writing, posting, and widely disseminating web news-releases based on scientific results. These news-releases come in two flavours, one intended for the media and the general public posted on the Herschel Space Science Portal, and another aimed at the special interest community posted on the Herschel SciTech site. For examples of webreleases see the listing on the HSC website.
In addition to webreleases, occasionally containing videos like the multi-wavelength feature on M31 Andromeda's coat of many colours, and dedicated videos like the ESA Euronews Hot from Cold feature, are produced. Fully-fledged press conferences can be also considered, but are reserved for exceptional circumstances.
Additionally, 'image releases' through the Online Showcase of Herschel Images OSHI website are welcome at all times.
The process - how to communicate
For Herschel communications based on science results the Herschel Project Scientist is the contact point to the Herschel observer community. When you have a Herschel result that you think could be interesting to a wider audience, please bring this to his attention. You can do this by raising a Helpdesk ticket (Communications/Outreach department) or by sending an e-mail.
All communication activities mentioned above require resources, including science writers and image processing. These resources are limited, and therefore a formal process to allocate them has been put in place. It is based on the submission of 'Communications Requests', that are judged competitively, and only the best will be allocated communications resources (much like proposing for observing time).
When something potentially newsworthy has been identified, a 'Communications Request' needs to be submitted by the Project Scientist. In order to write a good proposal the best possible input is needed:
The paper manuscript. You may feel you want to wait until you have received a favourable referee report, but it takes away time. The submitted manuscript is preferable. A common 'problem' is that contact is made too late, e.g. when the paper has been accepted. The idea is to post the webrelease at the same time as the paper is published. Don't wait!
Your ideas/suggestions about the main punch lines for the media and the public. (Why should one (non-astronomers) care? Why would your mother/brother/cousin care?)
Any illustrations that you might have, or ideas for illustrations that could be created. Visual material is always important.
Information about other communications efforts underway/planned (institutional, national, DLR, CNES, SRON, NASA, etc)
Needless to say, all material and ideas exchanged are kept confidential. Once it has been decided to go ahead, you will be kept in the loop and you will have to comment and finally approve the release(s) based on your result before they are posted. If multiple releases are to be made they are coordinated by the ESA communications to achieve maximum impact, normally they are posted simultaneously.