4. Communications Outside the Scientific Literature
Communication with the lay public through publication of research results and discussions is encouraged. Such communications help to disseminate knowledge to the general community and can promote an appreciation of research in neuroscience, much of which is supported with public funds. However, these communications must be made responsibly, staying within the boundaries set by the level of understanding of the audience and the need for accuracy and responsibility. In most instances, research findings should be published or accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal before being announced to the public.
4.1. Research scientists should seek to communicate their ideas and results to the general public. Researchers are encouraged to discuss their ideas and their results with the public. This might occur through oral presentations, press releases, or articles written for the lay community or assistance and advice to those producing public communication in science. SfN maintains a staff to assist its members in this regard. Researchers are cautioned, however, that federal law prohibits promoting a drug or device for indications not approved by the Federal Drug Administration.
4.2. Material prepared for the popular literature should be accurate and be given previous review by peers. Scientific terminology provides the precision essential to the conduct of science, yet may be unintelligible or unnecessarily complex for communicating with the general public. Scientists are encouraged to use language appropriate to their audience, even though this may result in some loss of precision. The scientist should, however, strive to keep public writing, remarks, and interviews as accurate as possible, given the constraints of effective communication, the particular medium, and the extent to which the scientist is able to control the final product or communication.
4.2.1. When communicating outside the scientific literature, researchers should adhere to the same general ethical principles that apply to research articles. This includes giving appropriate credit to others; the prohibitions against fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism; the principles that define authorship; and the requirement that potential conflicts of interest be disclosed.
4.2.2. A scientist should not publicly announce a discovery unless the experimental, statistical, and theoretical support for it is of sufficient strength to warrant publication in the scientific literature.
4.3. Communication outside the scientific literature is not a substitute for publication within the scientific literature. Although communication of ideas and results to the lay public is strongly encouraged, this does not substitute for publication of those ideas and results in a peer-reviewed journal. Moreover, public trust in the scientific endeavor can be greatly harmed through the premature release of findings that are called into question or disproved shortly thereafter. Thus, it generally is best if the initial public announcement of a scientific finding occurs after acceptance by a peer-reviewed journal.
4.3.2. Under certain circumstances an author may conclude that the public good is best served by more rapid dissemination of research findings. In such circumstances, special care must be taken to ensure that the conclusions presented to the public are well supported. If the work has not yet been subjected to formal editorial or peer review, the proposed communication should be reviewed by knowledgeable colleagues.
4.3.3. When publication of a result in the popular press precedes publication in a peer reviewed journal, an account of the experimental work and results should be submitted as quickly as possible for publication in such a journal.