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Web site seeks to put research in public eye

‘Futurity’ displays campus projects

Universities have long looked to collaboration to improve research, but now they are also looking to improve public access to it.

UNC has joined Duke University, Stanford University and the University of Rochester, which have created a Web site to collect articles about research being conducted by major universities.

The Web site, called Futurity, was officially launched this month. Members of the Association of American Universities, including UNC, were invited to participate by submitting news stories about research done on their campuses.

“The world is becoming increasingly complex,” said Jenny Leonard, editor of Futurity and an assistant director at the University of Rochester.

“The significance of the Web site is to help the public stay engaged in what the nation’s major universities are finding about the world.”

The project is funded by individual universities. Each university had to contribute $2,000 before the Web site launched, and they all have personnel working full time for it, Leonard said.

Patric Lane, editor of health and science at UNC News Services, said topics vary — from science, health and psychology to the economy, business and cultural studies.

 The name “Futurity” literally means “things to follow,” specifically research in this case, and also is a combination of key words for the Web site: “future” and “university,” Leonard said.

The idea came from a conversation at an Association of American Universities meeting, she said.

“Nine months ago we were talking about how we can use the latest journalistic innovations to help people get information about the development of science and research on our campuses,” said Michael Schoenfeld, co-founder of the Web site and vice president for public affairs and government relations at Duke University.

 “Then we thought, ‘What if we got the most well-known and highly-respected universities to publish their research in one place, available to the general public?’”

Once the Web site was officially launched, the university membership doubled, Leonard said.

About 35 universities are now using the Web site.

The co-founders split most of the responsibilities for maintaining the Web site, Schoenfeld said.

Lane said people can access the Web site on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Daily newsletter services are also available.

“The Web site is actually very little additional work,” Lane said. “We are not creating stories. We are just repurposing the already existing content.”

The existence of Futurity probably will not enhance new research, but it will make people more aware of the work being done by the major universities, Lane said.

Although only the 62 Association of American Universities members can publish their news on the Web site, several overseas universities have shown interest in working with Futurity. Administrators are considering expanding their entry policy, Leonard said.

“Futurity will give us an opportunity to showcase our work and collaborate with our peer universities,” Lane said.

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