I wrote some pretty critical stuff about a magazine called Research Features after they contacted me as a potential subject of an article. Research Features’ website calls it a magazine, but what it really is is a collection of very slickly produced press releases, which are paid for by the scientists they feature. I found this sketchy, and I said so:
What’s sketchy about this is that it’s self-promotion passing itself off as journalism. Research Features calls itself a ‘digital magazine’…It’s full of what look like articles, though their authorship is not attributed. They’re not articles, though; they’re ads. Ads for researchers, ads for labs.
Incidentally, my first post about Research Features has become my most read post by far, with more than three times as many views as the next most read. If you Google Research Features, I think you’ll find it within the top few hits. Which might explain why their Editorial Director emailed me that she was “interested and concerned” about what I had written and asked if we might talk on the phone. When I replied that I’d rather discuss it by email, she left the conversation and never came back, which did not inspire me to change my evaluation. Nor was my impression much improved when a reader emailed to tell me that the authors of those very slickly produced press releases were paid £50 for each one, or roughly 3% of what they were going to charge me.
Research Features have become Research Outreach. The same address. Use the google yellow man to check the address. 🙂
I was skeptical at first, partly because I misunderstood what he meant by ‘address’:
I don’t think they have changed their name…they are still there at https://researchfeatures.com/, with the same name as far as I can tell, and there are articles as recent as February of this year.
But comments by another reader (Clarissa) convinced me to look a bit deeper:
They do appear to be the same, I believe, from the same design style of the website and magazine, as well as the same Chief Editor shown in the Editor’s Notes of Outreach Magazine.
As best I can tell, Tom and Clarissa are right. Research Features and Research Outlook list the same physical address, the same Editorial Director, and the same Operations Director. The Senior Editor of Research Outreach is the Editor of Research Features, and two of Research Outreach’s three Designers are Research Features’ designers, and the Founder of Research Outreach is the Publisher of Research Features. The Project Managers, at least, appear to be non-overlapping.
Their article layouts are also essentially identical:
So, yeah, it’s the same outfit. Whether Research Features was replaced by Research Outreach or whether there are now two publications run by the same publisher isn’t clear to me. It doesn’t help that their issues are not dated, but what I can see is that Research Features has published at least as recently as this February, and that Research Outreach has published seven issues. I also note that the link to the “Get Featured” page is not prominently featured on Research Features‘ homepage, which might suggest that they’re no longer producing new articles:
There are some other differences. Research Outreach’s website bills it as a “not-for-profit Public Outreach agency.” I don’t find any mention on Research Features‘ website calling it not-for-profit. Research Outreach is also upfront about their fees: on their “Our Services” page, an article in the publication lists for $1970, plus an additional $380 if you want the to “create an enhanced social media campaign, guaranteeing that at least 80,000 people see your work.” With Research Features, it wasn’t until I spoke with the Project Manager on the phone that a fee was mentioned at all (and he called $2230 a “nominal fee”).
I’m tempted to think that Research Outreach is the new version of Research Features, and that they have, at least to some extent, cleaned up their act. Remember, my biggest complaint about Research Features was that it was “self-promotion passing itself off as journalism.” One reason I said that is that it calls itself a magazine, which it isn’t. Research Outlook calls itself a “publication” (which it is) and a public outreach agency (which it is). They also seem to me to be more upfront about their fees. Research Features’ “Get Featured” page makes no mention of a fee (it is on the “Our Business Model” page, but that is not prominent); Research Outlook mentions it both on the homepage (under the “How we do it” tab: “Our content is funded by the research institutes and projects we serve”) and on the “Our Services” page, where the fees are specified.
I’m a big believer in scientific outreach; that’s why I started this blog. I’m still not sure how I feel about the business model of Research Outreach, but unlike Research Features, it doesn’t strike me as deceptive. Have they turned over a new leaf? Maybe these are just well-intentioned people who made some unfortunate decisions early on. I hope that’s the case. I can’t say for sure; they have (probably wisely) not tried again to sell me an article. What do you think?
If anyone from Research Outreach wants to clarify anything, they are, as always, welcome to comment.