What is The Conversation?
Launched in Australia in 2011, and then in the UK in 2013, The Conversation is an independent source of informed opinion from the academic and research community. The Conversation is funded by universities, research institutions, corporate bodies, foundations and reader donations, enabling it to be free for readers and authors. And PhD students may write for The Conversation!
There are 3 main types of article on The Conversation:
- Research led. The research could be ground breaking, naturally appealing or relevant, a surprising connection, or comments on another’s research.
- News led. These could be linked to anniversaries, “world days”, obituaries or an event, e.g. hurricane Harvey. They could relate to a topical question or explanations of terms such as hard/soft Brexit. They might offer a new perspective on a story, or connect research to popular culture (e.g. “scandi-crime” drama)
- Timeless. These are more feature-like, perhaps covering topics like chocolate, weather forecasting, case studies, or historical stories. They may address common or speculative questions. Listicles (5 ways that…) are another type of timeless article.
Over 12,000 authors have written over 20,000 papers – these are published on a creative commons licence and normally around 800 words long.
Why write for The Conversation?
The conversation is considered an expert directory, with publishers and journalists searching here for contacts. The UK Site is well used with about 5 million page views per month. Authors work with professional journalists who can advise on angles, styles and give ideas on who might be interested in your article to help researchers reach a bigger audience.
Having an article on The Conversation is a signal that you are interested in public engagement – some researchers become the BBC’s “go-to person on a topic” as a result of writing for The Conversation.
Ok, so how do I get a paper in The Conversation?
There are 3 ways that The Conversation gets papers:
- Commissioning – you could be asked to write something very quickly, but usually have a month to 6 weeks to turn an article around
- Working with press teams in universities
- Pitches from authors
Any tips for pitching?
Pitches should be around 200 words. Pitch before spending time writing the article. Your pitch should be on one of The Conversation’s 3 priority areas:
- Timely evidence-based analysis of issues making the news
- Timeless plain-English explainers of complex issues
- In-depth series or specials or hard evidence stories
Before writing your pitch, undertake a keyword search on your topic to see what has already been published on your topic. Then identify what is most important thing to your readers. Why is this interesting? What is your particular angle? Avoid academic jargon, acronyms, and technical terms. A useful test is whether your story can be summarised in 1 sentence. You could contact the UoB Press Office if you need help formulating your pitch.
To submit a pitch, click on ‘Become an author’. Complete the form by verifying your institution, detailing your education history and setting your account password. The Conversation normally responds to a pitch within 2 days.
So, what kind of news events could you link your research to? Have you used writing to engage the public with your work?