Wanting to get your research to a mainstream audience in Aotearoa NZ and overseas? There’s a not-for-profit news platform that can help.

Up to 20,000 organisations globally republish articles from The Conversation

The Conversation, a collaboration between academics and journalists to publish research-based news and analysis, is looking for more University of Auckland academics to write for the platform.

Around 50 people attended a workshop in May on how to contribute, with The Conversation's editors urging more academics to join.

The Conversation has a monthly audience of 18 million users and a reach of 42 million through  republication, according to its website.

Established at the University of Melbourne in 2011, it has grown to include local teams in about a dozen countries, from the US and Canada to Brazil, Indonesia, Spain and the UK. The University of Auckland is one of approximately 180 international universities and research institutes affiliated with The Conversation.

There are three editors in New Zealand - journalism and communications expert Debrin Foxcroft, former book publisher and Listener editor Finlay Macdonald, and microbiologist-turned science journalist (RNZ, the Listener, New Scientist and others) Veronika Meduna.

Finlay and Veronika presented at the recent workshop, a partnership between the School of Population Health and the University's central communications team.

You can’t be misquoted; you have control and that’s particularly important when writing about sensitive and topical issues, or complicated research.

Finlay Macdonald The Conversation

Cut to the chase: Read our eight-step guide for writing for The Conversation at the end of this article.

About half of The Conversation’s New Zealand edition readers are overseas, Veronika told workshop attendees, giving University of Auckland academics the chance to disseminate research – and research-backed news analysis – to an educated but non-specialist audience.

All the articles are free to read and available for republication online or in print.

Finlay says as a journalist, he often rang experts for comment on topics of interest.

“In a way, we are cutting out the middleman and going directly to the expert. One benefit for an academic wanting to write for The Conversation is you are in charge of what is published and able to approve the final version.”

We are guided by a clear purpose: to provide access to the sort of quality explanatory journalism essential for a healthy democracy.

Finlay Macdonald The Conversation

“You can’t be misquoted; you have control and that’s particularly important when writing about sensitive and topical issues, or complicated research.

”On the other hand, academics can find it tough to write for a mainstream audience, using conversational language and avoiding jargon.

“We publish ‘journalism’, not ‘journal - ism’,” Finlay says.

Many news organisations talk about pitching your writing so a 12-year-old can understand, he says; The Conversation is probably targeting someone 16 or over. 

Veronika says the most important thing for academics to consider when thinking about pitching a story idea to The Conversation is that the most impactful and interesting angle needs to be right at the top of the story. Sometimes that can be hard, particularly at first, which is why the publication’s editors work alongside academics.

“If you match university thoughtfulness with seasoned journalists, magic happens.”

Getting started – Our eight-step guide to writing for The Conversation

1) Sign up as an author. You need to be employed as an academic, researcher or be a PhD candidate under supervision by an academic

2) Read other articles on The Conversation site to get familiar with their style

3) Send a pitch for your story, using their template. The template is geared to help you structure your story in a journalistic (rather than an academic) way

4) The editors may accept or reject your initial story idea, or may ask for more information or a different angle. Do not feel dejected if they don’t accept your first draft or your first story idea. Rework your pitch or send another idea. Veronika says she accepts around 70 percent of science/health/environment-related pitches, sometimes after re-working

5) Write your first draft using The Conversation template, then you will work with one of the editors to hone your article

6) Fill out the disclosure form. Disclosing relevant information may not change your eligibility to get published

7) Send any images you have to your editor

8) Once the article is ready, you will be asked to press the button for final approval before publication.

NOTE: The default for comments on articles is OFF because of trolls (abusive users). If you want people to be able to comment on your article, you can choose to open comments.

For more information:

Nikki Mandow | Research communications
M: 021 174 3142
E: nikki.mandow@auckland.ac.nz