What is The Conversation?
“The Conversation is a nonprofit, independent news organization dedicated to unlocking the knowledge of experts for the public good. We publish trustworthy and informative articles written by academic experts for the general public and edited by our team of journalists.”
The Conversation makes the articles available as a free public service to 1,000+ unique digital republishers like The New York Times, The Washington Post, Scientific American, Associated Press, Yahoo! News, and more. For more information, read the The Conversation’s Republishing Guidelines.
Writing for The Conversation is an opportunity to educate the public about important research and add insight into current events.
Also, check out the 2022 Author Impact Report to find out what faculty think about their experience writing for The Conversation.
Panel: Writing for The Conversation
Want to know more? Attend a webinar on Writing for The Conversation with editors and UVA faculty on December 2, 2022 at 2PM (rescheduled from 11/16).
A good time to write for The Conversation would be when you’ve had an academic paper accepted for publication, or when anything related to your research is in current events or on the news.
You might also receive an “expert request” from your college communicator.
When you are conducting research supported by a grant or award that requires demonstrable outreach, publishing for The Conversation is an opportunity to fulfill that requirement.
Also, when you write the article, you cannot be misquoted or have your words taken out of context. Republishers must take your entire article, word for word. The article is not published until it has been edited by 3-4 editors and meets with your final approval.
Scholars who write for The Conversation are often tapped for expertise by The Conversation editors or republishers on future news stories, and many authors report being contacted for an academic collaboration after their article appeared.
The author must have a PhD, or significant expertise in the subject matter area. Doctoral candidates are also eligible if they are writing on the topic of their dissertation (as a sole author) or they can write more broadly within their field of expertise if they co-author the piece with a faculty advisor. Master’s students can also write about their research if they co-author the piece with a faculty advisor.
- Draft a pitch to The Conversation with help from a college communicator and submit it here. If the pitch is accepted, you will be paired with an editor at The Conversation who will give specific instructions.
- Write the article and go through a rigorous editorial process with the editor to make sure your ideas are clearly expressed. You will give the final approval, confirming that the article accurately reflects your ideas and research.
- The article will be published on The Conversation.com, get featured in The Conversation’s newsletter and social media, and will go out on the AP wire to be picked up by republishers.
Your college communicator can help you write and submit a pitch.
Within 10 days after submission, you will receive an email from The Conversation that will either accept or reject your pitch. If your pitch is accepted, an editor from The Conversation will be in touch to help frame the story and decide on a timeline for the article. If your pitch is rejected, you will receive feedback from The Conversation as to why the pitch was rejected to help you with your future pitches.
Published articles are usually 800-1000 words long.
According to The Conversation, “On average, we accept about 30% of pitches we receive. It’s important to keep in mind we only publish 7-10 stories a day, Monday through Friday; or 35-50 articles. The Conversation receives 150 pitches a week.”
Absolutely! Many researchers coauthor articles with their colleagues at UVA, or with collaborators at other universities.
The Conversation Story Formats
In addition to our standard 800-1000-word stories, The Conversation has a few different formats that stories can take. Some of these formats can be a great introduction to The Conversation for a new scholar or a good option for a scholar with limited time.
Research Briefs are short takes on interesting research and academic work. These stories focus on new research as well as research that is about to be published. They run under 600 words and follow a simple, structured format that emphasizes what the scholars found and how they found it, as well as why it matters. The first sentence always expresses the key finding(s) in a broadly accessible way that’s free of jargon.
Significant Figures are stories driven by a single interesting statistic or numeric figure that’s currently newsworthy. The significant figure should be the driving force of the story.
Interesting or surprising figures from new research, survey data or government/trade group/industry reports often make for excellent Significant Figures stories – if they are relevant to the lives of a general reader. These stories can originate from both pitches and the daily Expert Request. They are generally short, ranging from 500 to 600 words.
Significant Terms articles define something that is in the news or relevant to life in the U.S. in a brief, simple and engaging way. The top section defines the term and the next section explains why it matters. An optional third section may explore growth or other related numbers. Here are some examples:
This format works well for all topics. These articles are extremely short, ideally no more than 400 words and written with the goal of remaining timely for as long as possible.
Curious Kids are stories that answer questions submitted by real kids from around the world in a simple and engaging way. Here are a few examples:
This series explores topics across all desks. You can find the Curious Kids stories we are chasing in the daily Expert Request. These stories are generally short (the shorter, the better!) at 600 to 800 words and written in a lively way to help make them accessible to younger readers
Scientists at Work
Scientists at Work articles are first-person narratives about how research is done. They focus less on a specific scientific finding and more on the process and experience of investigating a scientific question. One goal is to share with readers the excitement, joy and passion the author feels around his or her work. Good candidates for this series would take a reader behind the scenes to an amazing fieldwork location or an inaccessible lab and provide day-in-the-life-type details about how the researcher spends his or her time. Cool photos to illustrate are a bonus.