Communicating About Research

Below are guidelines about how to communicate about research in public-facing ways and to specific external audiences. Visit the U-M Medical School Office of Research Communications Toolkit page for suggestions regarding communicating to the internal U-M research community.

Promoting research findings and projects

Promoting research findings and projects

As one of the nation's leading biomedical research institutions, Michigan Medicine has a strong interest in sharing news of our teams' research with the world in layperson-friendly language, using multimedia and social media as well as text.

Similarly, we want to ensure that multidisciplinary work by cross-campus and multi-institution teams is promoted via all appropriate channels.

The public relations team in the Department of Communication has the lead for widespread promotion of research findings to the news media, and coordinates with communicators from departments, divisions, centers, institutes and programs for other forms of external research-related communications.

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

A full list of Research News Standards is available on the Michigan Medicine Newsroom and should be followed by all communicators affiliated with Michigan Medicine to ensure that we uphold the public's trust in our research endeavors. (Please especially note the section regarding preprints.)

Faculty, senior trainees and staff at Michigan Medicine should reach out to the public relations team when they:

  • are preparing to publish or present significant research findings

  • want to discuss external communication strategies for a particular project or program

  • are contacted by a reporter about their work and want to consult on whether and how to engage

  • seek to write an opinion or commentary piece for a mass-media outlet

  • are contacted about communications by a journal, funding source, company, professional society or advocacy group

Who to contact?

Use the list of public relations staff members assigned to each department or write to Provide context about the significance and clinical/policy relevance of the work, and any communication. For urgent situations, contact the on-call member of the public relations team through the hospital operator.

To determine which communicator from the public relations team takes the lead on creating the institution's promotion strategy for a given piece of research, follow the "first author's first affiliation" rule. This is generally agreed upon by communicators at biomedical institutions nationally. That is, the lead responsibility falls to the public relations person assigned to cover the department, division or institute where the first author has his/her primary faculty or learner appointment.

Citing publications, funding, collaborators, etc.

Research wouldn't be possible without teamwork and funding, and in many cases institutional resources as well.

When communicating about research, U-M communicators should always include:

The name of the meeting or journal where the research findings are being presented or published, or the name and publisher of the report, care guideline, research event or book being discussed.

    • Give link(s) and a full citation to make it easy for the reader/listener/viewer to find the original content.

    • For research papers, include the DOI, which is the unique identifier that stays the same no matter where the paper is published; for reports there may be a "handle" in the U-M Deep Blue server or a report citation created by the publisher.

The name(s) of the funding source(s) whether they are federal agencies (NIH, NSF, AHRQ, VA, etc.), state and municipal services (MDHHS, Washtenaw County), companies, nonprofit organizations, private foundations, U-M gift funds or department/center resources.

  • Federal agencies have specifically asked academic institutions to include the grant number in communications. This allows the agency to track the public attention being given to the research they have funded using taxpayer dollars. Note that when including a grant number from NIH, use the two-letter code for the institute followed by the six-digit code for the grant, without any spaces, dashes, or other symbols (for instance: AB123456).

  • For work related to a Collaborative Quality Initiative, mention both the specific CQI and the funding from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan that supports all CQIs.

  • Important note: Disclosure of industry sponsors, or of funding from organizations that engage in advocacy or policy work related to the topic of the research, is very important. So is disclosure of any relationship that author(s) might have with the source of funding, for example being a co-holder of a patent or the founder of a startup company. (See Conflict of Interest below.)

The names of the first and senior authors (keeping in mind that some research efforts have multiple first or multiple senior authors). If possible, include all authors' names, or at least the names of those affiliated with U-M.

The names of any U-M schools/colleges/institutes beyond the Medical School, and any outside institutions, where first/senior authors have appointments or where a large number of collaborators are based.

  • Cross-campus collaboration and multi-institution partnership should be celebrated - no one department or center "owns" a story that results from such teamwork, and communicators should collaborate to promote the outcomes of such work.

  • Collaborating institutions and funding sources are free to republish content created to promote the work their faculty did with U-M colleagues, so long as they give credit for the source of the content.

The unique identification number for any clinical trial(s) mentioned, with a link to the trial listing(s) on or

The name of any unique central research assets that enabled the research, such as research cores, data repositories or registries.

On social media posts, whenever possible, link to a source of information that has the above information available, and tag collaborating individuals and branded accounts. More social media guidance.

Clinical & human participant research

Many U-M researchers rely on human participants, for studies ranging from basic and translational work, to clinical trials of new drugs, devices, diagnostics and interventions.

Whenever communications materials mention a clinical or human participants study, they should link to an IRB-approved page with full information about the study, either on or

A link-shortening tool or QR code should be used when a hyperlink is not feasible, for instance on a video or printed flyer.


Communications to broad or targeted audiences can help recruit participants for a wide range of U-M studies, but must also be done in alignment with regulations governing research involving humans. This includes studies that are currently open for recruitment and those expected to open soon.

IRB approval is required for many communications materials and must be obtained before communication begins. See the IRBMED guidance on recruitment advertising.

The MICHR Participant Recruitment team provides services to assist U-M researchers with human participant recruitment, including promotion on social media, creating recruitment materials, recruitment consultations, and community outreach.

Study teams should also ensure that they use the free UMHealthResearch volunteer registry to its fullest.

The Department of Communication, and department/center/institute communicators, may selectively choose to do additional promotion for studies that have a special news value or other significance.

However, due to the sheer volume of studies conducted each year, this effort is limited and must also be done in accordance with IRB guidance.

Involvement of research participants in communications by U-M or outside entities

The Department of Communication must be involved in any situation where a past or current research participant may be asked to take part in communications, including media interviews, articles about their participation in the study, and outreach efforts planned by the study sponsor or another group. See the Consent Section on the People & Conditions page of this site for more details.

In addition, extra special care must be taken, and the IRB must be consulted, before a participant in the active treatment phase of a treatment trial is approached regarding any participation in communication activities for the university or an outside entity. This is done to avoid any perception of coercion toward the participant by the team involved in providing the experimental treatment or any indication that the investigational agent being studied (drug, device, biologic) is known to be safe and effective for the purpose of the research study.


Clinical trial phases are generally written with lowercase phase and a numeral from 1 through 4 - for instance "The team has launched a phase 1 trial." "The new paper describes the results of a phase 3 trial."

In most cases it is helpful to describe in plain language what the phase means:

  • Preclinical: Testing (usually in animal models) to demonstrate the safety and efficacy needed for a human clinical trial.

  • Phase 1: Small numbers of people receive a treatment to see if it's safe.

  • Phase 2: Continued testing for safety and to determine the right dose.

  • Phase 3: Larger tests of safety and effectiveness. (This is where many compounds with early promise fail.)

  • Phase 4: Continued testing of newly FDA approved drugs to identify things like rare side effects, longer term effects and its effectiveness in combination with other therapies.

Animal research

U-M communicators routinely promote the results of research involving animals, as part of showing the importance of this type of biomedical research in the effort to understand, diagnose and treat human and animal diseases.

Communicators in the Michigan Medicine Department of Communication, the Michigan News office, the Office of Public Affairs, and the Animal Care and Use (ACU) Program are also acutely aware of the potential for negative and unintentional attention regarding animal research.

To reduce this risk, researchers are strongly encouraged to consult, and partner with, both the ACU Program and the communicators who cover their department, division or center on any aspect of communication regarding animals. See also the U-M statement on animals in research and the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Animal Care & Use website.

When creating content (stories, images, videos, social media posts) about research that involves animals, all U-M communicators and research team members should:

  • mention as prominently as possible that the work was done in animals to avoid confusion with clinical research. (Similarly, research based in cell cultures or computer models should be prominently identified as such)

  • name the type of approved animal involved in the work

  • refrain from overly stating the implications of animal research for human health

  • refrain from sharing images or video of animals taken during experiments, during or after procedures, or post-mortem. When possible, use approved stock images of animals (available for free upon request to, or use descriptions, illustrations, animations, or scientific images made at the microscopic level.

  • be especially cautious when choosing images or video to post to social media or public websites; materials created for use in scientific communications may be easily misinterpreted by members of the public who come across them, even if the intended audience was a scientific one.

  • follow the IACUC-approved protocol and all existing safety requirements. Images depicting animals or animal procedures must be consistent with the information (purpose, method, personnel) contained within the IACUC approved protocol. Images must also follow all existing lab safety/PPE requirements (goggles, gloves, lab coats, etc.)

Questions or concerns should be addressed to

Disclosing conflict of interest (COI)

Michigan Medicine has a robust program for disclosing and managing conflicts of interest held by faculty, leaders and staff, and is included in U-M's COI and Institutional COI policies and protocols.

Any communication product from a Michigan Medicine unit that relates in any way to the outside interests of a faculty member, leader or staff member must include a disclosure statement about that interest. The Medical School Conflict of Interest office can assist communicators with specific language. Email for assistance.

In addition, any communication related to a company for which U-M has an institutional COI (for instance, because of the services of a top leader on a company's board, or an institution-level financial interest in a startup company) is subject to the relevant policy and must include an ICOI disclosure.

Interaction with industry communicators

Participation in industry-sponsored communications (corporate press releases, web articles, videos, podcasts, print materials and advertisements) and in media interviews arranged by industry require special attention; contact the pertinent member of the Public Relations team or email

When U-M faculty are conducting industry-sponsored research, they may be quoted about the results of that research in announcements by the study sponsor. They may also take part in media interviews about that research that have been arranged by the sponsor, but they must disclose fully the nature of their involvement with the sponsor and the sponsor's role (if any) in the design, conduct, interpretation and publication of the study and its results. Any U-M communications about such research should also include such disclosures of funding, sponsor involvement and individual/institutional COI.

U-M faculty and staff must avoid the appearance of endorsing or promoting a product used in their work, but may state factually how the product was chosen and how it is used, including in communications prepared by the company whose product they use. Further guidance, including the correct phrase to include if a person's U-M title will be given, is available on the Policies & Permissions section of the U-M Brand site.

Michigan Medicine faculty and staff are prohibited from participation in industry "speakers' bureaus" but may accept invitations from industry to speak when the faculty or staff member creates materials and retains full editorial control of the content. See the Medical School's Industry Sponsored Speaking Policy or contact the Medical School Conflict of Interest office at for more information.