Communicating medical science: new press release labelling system launched

The Science Media Centre (SMC) has launched a new press release labelling system this week to help journalists navigate emerging research findings.

The system is the result of a recommendation made by the Academy in its influential report Enhancing the use of scientific evidence to judge the potential benefits and harms of medicines.

The Academy endorses the new voluntary labelling system and encourages relevant organisations to adopt the approach. The system involves putting three simple labels on the top of press releases to state whether the research is peer-reviewed, define the type of study, and state whether the research was carried out in cells, animals or humans.

The Academy’s Evidence report recommendation initially asked the SMC to explore the feasibility of a traffic light system for press releases. Early discussions with press officers and researchers encouraged a move away from a traffic light system, towards a simple and effective labelling system.

The SMC carried out further consultation with press officers, research funders, researchers and journalists and also completed a pilot of the scheme. In addition, Stempra, the network for science communication and PR professionals, encouraged wider discussion of the approach among its membership at a number of UK events held over the past year. Over 27 a scientific institutions will begin using the labelling system officially from Monday 2 July.

Professor Sir John Tooke FMedSci, Chair of the Oversight Group that produced the Evidence report, said:

“Press offices are key intermediaries between researchers and journalists, helping to encourage responsible, accurate and balanced reporting of scientific evidence in the media. We applaud the Science Media Centre and the science communication community for working together on implementing a very complex recommendation to develop a system to help journalists navigate press releases.

“The new system is simple, workable and has already had a positive reception from press officers, researchers, funders and journalists. We fully endorse the labelling system as a tool to help support accurate science reporting, and will work with our stakeholders to help ensure it is widely adopted.”

Nick Hillier, Director of Communications at the Academy, said:

“The Evidence report recognised the important role of press officers in communicating research. This new system is another tool that the highly skilled UK science and health press officers will have at their disposal. We hope it will support and empower them to have frank conversations with researchers about their work, and help journalists navigate the avalanche of press releases they receive on a daily basis.

“I personally hope that this scheme will spark other projects to recognise, develop and support health and science press officers and the great work they do to achieve accurate and balanced reporting of science.”


To adopt the press release labelling system, or for more information about the scheme, please contact the Science Media Centre at 

Guidance for using the new scheme can be found  here

To read a blog about the labelling system from Fiona Fox, Executive Director of the Science Media Centre click here

For more information about the Academy report visit our microsite



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