Three questions with… Laura!

Our lab is growing! In our Three Questions series, we’re profiling each of our members and the amazing work they’re doing.

This week’s post features Laura Moorhead, an assistant professor in San Francisco State University’s Journalism department and a research associate with the ScholCommLab. In this interview, she discusses the joys and pains of publishing non-COVID papers in the “era of COVID,” offers a glimpse of some new research, and more. 

Laura Moorhead, in a hat and sunglasses, enjoys the sun at Golden Gate Park
Laura at San Francisco Golden Gate Park, Fall 2020

Q#1 What are you working on at the lab? 

I’m helping with the health communication crew. As a former journalist, I’m interested in projects that hit the sweet spot of journalism (e.g., news) and access to knowledge (e.g., research). I’m excited about an upcoming qualitative project that considers how journalists approach the inclusion of research and how scientists view that approach. Ultimately, I’m interested in how the public benefits (or not) from shared knowledge of research. What research makes it to the public and how do people use it? We’ll also be considering how preprints are used and perceived.

Q#2 Tell us about a recent paper, presentation, or project you’re proud of. 

“Proud” isn’t the right word, but “perseverance” might work. This paper was just published and the review process took FOREVER. It’s an analysis of US-funded cancer research showing that online news stories mention significantly fewer studies than do other forms of news media. Additionally, the paper highlights mismatches between relative prevalence or mortality of different cancer types and the amount of coverage they receive. It’s a follow-up paper of sorts that stems from another paper. Multiple people from the lab helped on both papers—Juan Pablo Alperin, Asura Enkhbayar, Lauren Maggio, as well as another colleague (Mindy Krakow). 

But back to the perseverance: This second paper is kind of a bookend to the first paper. Thus, we went back to BMJ Open for our initial submission in November 2019. But, alas, no luck. Then in April 2020, we submitted the paper to PLOS One. There were two round of revisions, and at several points, I thought we’d never win over Reviewer #2 regarding our use of Altmetric data. Eventually, though, we did. We also hit the bad timing of submitting a non-COVID paper during the eternal era of COVID. But eventually, it all panned out. Plus side: PLOS One volunteered to write and distribute a press release about the research on our behalf, which has been a pleasant surprise.  

Q#3 What’s the best (or worst) piece of advice you’ve ever received? 

Why is this one so hard?

Best advice (circa 1990): Said to my 20-something self then living in NYC, the epicentre of mainstream publishing: “You’re interested in tech and culture, you should move to San Francisco.” 

Worst advice, all from former bosses or mentors (circa 1993, 2007, 2015): Don’t go work or do X at Y (1993 = Wired magazine, 2007 = grad school, 2015 = San Francisco State University).  

Follow Laura on Twitter at @laura_moorhead.