Letter to readers

September 5, 2005

Dear TRN readers,

Many thanks to those of you who contributed funds and ideas to TRN in response to our readers letters over the past few weeks.

We have received enough contributions to continue TRN, but you'll see some significant changes. Some of the changes will improve TRN's coverage. Some of the changes are designed to preserve as much coverage as possible while cutting our already small costs.

    • TRN is now a weekly Web publication, with a Research Roundup and a feature appearing every Monday.

      ° The Research Roundup points out and briefly details the significance of four of the weeks most important research developments; it may also include some honorable mentions. When possible, the Research Roundup includes links back to the original research.

      ° The feature is either a How it Works article that explains a specific technology or a View from the High Ground question-and-answer feature with a prominent researcher.

    When our funding levels increase, we plan to add news stories about the most significant research roundup items.

    Smalley's Research Watch blog will continue to bring you two or three items every week.

    Our Web services, which include archives and directories will continue to expand; this week we plan to unveil a picture-based directory.

    We have -- at least for the moment -- stopped publication of the PDF edition. Existing subscribers will receive their choice of a TRN Making the Future report in lieu of the balance of their subscriptions. They will also receive an offer for a half-price subscription if we resume publication in the future.
We still need your continued support. Please contribute what you can to help us on an important source of science information.

We also value your input.

The TRN editors,
Eric, Kim and Ted

August 3, 2005

A short history of TRN

Technology Research News was begun and initially funded by a small group of journalists.

We like to think of ourselves as akin to farmers. We sift through the large number of science and technology research developments and discoveries and bring you what we think are the most important discoveries of the day so that you don't have to spend the time to do so yourself.

Many of these research developments and discoveries don't result in products that change society right away, but are poised to trigger bigger changes down the line.

The catalyst

We began publishing TRN in the summer of 2000. At the time the number of research discoveries from the world's university, corporate and government research labs was increasing, but coverage of science and technology was decreasing.

It seemed to us that popular media coverage of science was concentrated largely in the health/drug realm, and didn't spend the time and space needed to explain the science behind all the research developments and discoveries that will drive tomorrow's technologies.

We wanted to provide a deeper understanding of the wide swath of research discoveries poised to affect the technologies driving day-to-day life and business. And we wanted to make this information accessible so that everyone could follow news of science discoveries and breakthroughs as they happen.

We began writing news about science and technology research breakthroughs like robotic arms smaller than a millimeter, prototype memory made from individual atoms, a sensor that detects individual viruses and a camera that sees behind objects. Many of the developments and discoveries we write about are not covered elsewhere.

Our effort was soon bolstered by a study that showed that people said they wanted more information about science.

The process

To bring you the news we read the journals that produce technical articles about science and technology discoveries under headlines like "Production of Liquid Alkalines by Aqueous-Phase Processing of Biomass-Derived Carbohydrates," comb through the Web sites where researchers post technical details about their latest research, and also correspond with the researchers.

We keep up with the many soap operas of science and technology -- steps along the road to the mind-boggling speed of quantum computing; the quest for clean, sustainable energy; the evolution of nanotechnology from laboratory science to useful products; the slow, steady progress toward computers that understand language; secrets revealed by scientists studying networks; and hurdles overcome in the race to build robots that can walk as well as humans.

Before we write a story or brief we correspond -- by email, phone or in person -- with the researchers who did the research that led to the development or discovery. We also sometimes correspond with researchers unconnected with the discovery to get an independent assessment of its importance. Every story and brief, no matter how short, is produced this way.

Our editing process is a bit unusual. We don't split our staff into writers who produce stories, and editors who edit them, but instead make sure every journalist on our staff both writes and edits. We have found that this keeps everyones' writing and editing skills well honed.

During the initial editing process, the writer and one other editor work closely together. Before editing the story the editor reads any technical papers and interviews associated with the story. We often edit on paper, and the writer often makes and always approves all editing changes to a story. Once the initial editing process is done, a second editor proofs the story, and again any changes are approved by the writer. This process is not designed to be quick, but to be thorough and to limit mistakes.

One thing that's somewhat unusual about our style is we rarely use abbreviations. Abbreviations save space, but make text more difficult to read. We also make sure to put time and space into context. When our stories reference an extremely short length of time like a picosecond laser pulse, an extremely small object like a 1-nanometer-wide carbon nanotube, or a large amount of data like a terabyte, we provide some way to compare the time, object, or amount with something the reader is more familiar with.

Another thing that's unusual about TRN is that it is produced using very few keystrokes or mouse movements. Most of the newswriting and production, including Web and PDF layout, is done using speech recognition software.

Because two of TRN's founding editors were injured before we began the magazine, we used speech recognition of necessity. Over time we customized this new technology and it became an asset -- we use it to speed many writing and production processes, enabling us to produce Technology Research News with a very small staff. We are a small, lean news publication with very modest budget requirements.

The struggle

After five years of producing TRN we are proud of what we have have built: an independent publication seen by more than 200,000 unique visitors per month that is well-respected by the science and technology researchers whose work we explain. We're struggling, however. Although we like to think of ourselves as your information farmers, we can't eat the information we generate.

Here are the details: we have several sources of revenue -- the Google text advertisements you see on our pages, incremental income from database companies like Lexus Nexis, subscriptions to the PDF Edition of Technology Research News, and sales of our Making the Future Reports.

The $20,000 per year these revenue sources provide, however, is not nearly enough to support our Web site and staff of two full-time editors, one contributing editor and two part-time staffers.

We're hoping that you -- our readers -- care enough about the type of stories we write and the way we bring them to you -- as an independent news organization with a free Web site and archive -- to contribute to keeping TRN publishing.

We are looking for $100,000 a year in reader contributions to bridge the gap and fully fund TRN's business operation and staff. $150,000 a year would allow us to grow.

You're on

So, the last few paragraphs in the history of TRN is up to you -- our readers. We would like to continue to bring you the news, but our initial funding is running out. We are receiving contributions at a rate that will allow us to keep the Technology Research News Web site live, but not enough to pay our small staff.

If you would like to continue to read TRN news stories, if you believe there is not enough in-depth news available about the science and technology developments and discoveries poised to increasingly affect your life; if you want to find out more about what the world's best science and technology researchers are doing; if you want to learn more about nanotechnology, biotechnology, and information technology; and if you want to continue to inspire the world's best science and technology researchers to solve the world's problems by affording them recognition in the form of well-written news stories and in-depth question and answer features, please contribute.

Thank you for your time, and thank you for being a TRN reader.

The TRN editors,
Eric, Kim and Ted

July 27, 2005

Dear readers,

Last issue we asked for contributions to keep TRN going. We are an independent publication initially funded by the journalists who started and run TRN. Our funding, however, is running out.

We're hoping that you -- the more than 200,000 visitors who frequent the TRN pages each month -- can help keep TRN going.

We are currently receiving contributions at a rate that will fund many of TRN's site tools like the TRN finder, researchers directory, archive, forum and blog, but we are still far short of the $50,000 needed to fund the more time-consuming tasks of writing, editing and producing news stories for the rest of the year.

Please contribute any amount you can, and we'll continue to reward you with independent, well-written stories you can't get anywhere else, and a Web site that will continue to gain features. Visit our new forum and stay tuned for the TRN picture gallery and index.

The TRN editors,
Eric, Kim and Ted

July 13, 2005

Dear readers and friends of Technology Research News,

Technology Research News has been writing and publishing stories about research breakthroughs in the world's technology laboratories for the past five years. We believe that it is increasingly important to know the state and potential of scientific development in a world where science and technology increasingly influence everything from business to day-to-day life.

We are an independent news service run by journalists. We are also self-funded, and our funding is running out.

We would like to continue publishing TRN as a free site, and we'd like your help.

In the five years since we began TRN our readership has grown steadily. We now have more than 200,000 unique visitors per month.

We'd like to believe that you -- the reader community that has grown up around TRN -- are willing and able to contribute the $100,000 a year we need to fund this independent publication.

We need to raise $50,000 in funding within the next two months to be able to publish TRN through January 2006. We need to raise an additional $50,000 in funding by January to be able to publish TRN through July 2006.

Here's our plan, and here's what you can do:

Contribute $10 or more to the TRN fund and receive a one-year subscription to the PDF version of Technology Research News. This version is printable, and contains a cover that doesn't appear on the Web site.

Contribute $100 or more to the TRN fund and receive your choice of TRN Making the Future reports.

Contributions of $1,000 or more and $5,000 or more give you the option of appearing on our Friends and Benefactors of TRN page and receiving a TRN Tile thanking you for your generous support.

If we receive more than $50,000 by the end of July, we will drop the price of the PDF version of Technology Research News from $29 a year to nothing -- we will offer the PDF version for free on our site.

If we receive more than $100,000 by the end of September, we will be assured that we can make the reader-supported publishing model work.

We also have aspirations beyond simply keeping TRN going. We would like to expand our coverage. With an additional $50,000 of reader support per year we could bring you more stories a week, more columns, complete our index of research institutions, and build services like a picture index and gallery.

Contributions of $150,000 by the end of December, 2005 would allow us to expand our coverage this way. It would also allow us to to offer our Making the Future reports as downloads from our site at no cost.

We are proud of what we've accomplished over the past five years. Please help us continue. You can donate online or you can print a donation form and mail it to us with a check.

Thanks for your time, and thanks in advance for helping keep people informed about science and technology.

The TRN editors,
Eric, Kim and Ted

February 9, 2005

A few weeks ago we received a call from the father of a scientist who thanked us for helping him understand exactly what his son does.

For us, this is the best kind of call. Technology Research News is an independent science and technology publisher run by a small group of journalists. Our aim is to make science and technology developments clear and understandable so that anyone can gain a better and broader understanding of the wide and growing expanse of science and technology research.

We want to give our readers a heads-up about key research developments that will affect day-to-day life, business and culture. Locked up in the increasing flow of technical papers published world-wide are bits and pieces of the future.

We want to improve conventional wisdom about science. We feel that everyone can benefit from understanding more about the workings of science and technology and the developments coming down the line.

We get a kick out of following the soap operas of science and technology: quests to make extremely fast, energy-efficient computer chips that run on light rather than electricity; robots that can work alongside people safely and usefully; manufacturing processes that employ DNA to construct machines and materials molecule-by-molecule; machines that understand language; easy, inexpensive methods of harvesting energy from the sun; computer displays that look like paper or can be projected from a cellphone; and chemistry labs that fit on a chip. We want to share the thrill we get when we see the birth of an idea that will enable science fiction to become reality.

We are committed to keeping our content free, and we don't want to compromise our aims by putting banner advertising on the pages that contain our stories. Cognitive research shows that distractions inhibit the learning process.

We also have plans for expansion that range from features aimed at non-scientists to a directory of research and business events aimed at those working in the field. We would like to bring you features that trace the history of key technologies, and features that explain how key technologies work. We have a growing stack of especially well-written science books we wish to review on the site. We would also like to bring you a directory of researchers to watch, including Web links so you can more easily delve into the original research. We, along with most other media sites, have not come close to tapping the power of the Web to allow readers to visualize information. Information visualization tools will allow us to bring you more information and would allow you to digest the information more quickly.

We're hoping to become a site that is partially supported by our readers. Your contributions will keep TRN free, free of banner advertising, and help us expand our coverage.

We're also looking for contributions in the form of ideas. What do you like about TRN? What could be improved? What would you like to see added to the site? Which of our coming features would you like to see first?

Finally, if you haven't already, take a look at our most recent improvements: an expanded resources directory, and the Smalley's Research Watch blog.

TRN needs your help. Please click here for details.

RSS Feeds:
Stories  | Blog  | Books 


You might need to scroll right to see all of the ads.

Home     Archive     Resources    Feeds     Offline Publications     Glossary
TRN Finder     Research Dir.    Events Dir.      Researchers     Bookshelf
   Contribute      Under Development     T-shirts etc.     Classifieds
Forum    Comments    Feedback     About TRN

For permission to reprint or republish this article, please contact us.
© Copyright Technology Research News, LLC 2000-2005. All rights reserved.