Last spring, the National Eye Institute
completed an evaluation of its VISION Public Information Network,
developed over 10 years ago for the purpose of communicating research
results to the public through grantee institutions. The evaluation
results were positive, demonstrating that NEI's network may serve
as a model for other institutes and centers to consider as a method
for communicating with the public.
NEI's network is largely composed of public information officers
from research institutions across the country, including 117 institutional
members and 210 individual members. Its primary mission is to work
with NEI in disseminating vision research results to the national
and local media. When a result is forthcoming, NEI develops news
releases and other resources such as B-roll video and a dedicated
section on the NEI web site. These are provided in advance of journal
embargos to network members so they can adapt them for local use
and distribution. In the past 4 years, NEI has worked with more
than 170 institutions to communicate the results of 12 nationwide,
multicenter clinical trials.
Though the network's primary function is to communicate research
results to the media, more recently members have become engaged
in other areas such as marketing, branding and crisis management.
The network also provides opportunities for information sharing,
networking and professional development.
One member said, "The personal interactions with NEI staff and
other members of the network offer ideas that have increased our
own activities in the public information area immensely." Another
important finding was that the network facilitated well-coordinated
media coverage of study results and produced consistent messages.
In addition, the media audit found that both NEI and NIH were consistently
cited in the print and electronic media, raising the profile of
NIH while simultaneously involving local research institutions.
Though the network has existed for many years, NEI staff and network
members see this resource as one of NIH's "best-kept secrets." Few
institutions within or outside NIH have something comparable. A
member from the University of Alabama at Birmingham noted, "I think
the network is unique. There aren't many opportunities for communication
professionals in academic medical centers to gather to exchange
To learn more, visit www.visionnetwork.nei.nih.gov or
contact Jean Horrigan at (301) 496-5248.