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For those who have not heard of The Conversation, it is well worth taking a look. The independent online publishing platform is for academics who would like to communicate their research to the public using non-specialist language.

A bit like a professional blog, articles are written for a lay audience, are evidence based, edited by experts and the content is available to share (creative commons). Articles are often picked up by other media outlets and disseminated further afield. 

The Conversation is a charity, run primarily with funding from university subscription, with editorial teams based in the United Kingdom, Australia, France, South Africa and the United States. Each team has its own online presence and content is selected based on its relevance in relation to local current events. Cross-population of articles may also occur between the sites.

After his paper on blood pressure was accepted by the journal Hypertension, University of Oxford researcher Dr James Sheppard sent a pitch to The Conversation. The short and provocative title caught their attention: “Why I measure my blood pressure better than my Doctor.”

James presented the process of publishing with The Conversation alongside the Science Editor Dr Miriam Frankl where he outlined the important points he covered in his pitch:

1. Why is it important to measure BP?
2. Why doctors sometimes measure BP inaccurately
3. Why measurements taken by patients are best
3. How ‘cutting edge’ research is enabling doctors to make more accurate diagnoses of hypertension.

Editors have a very speedy turnaround (no peer review process) with acceptance gauged on the strength of the pitch.The editors in James' case responded within 24 hours with an invite to submit a 700 word article within a week. The editors changed the title to 'Why we should measure our own blood pressure' and made small modifications to the structure but the content remained untouched. James highlighted five good reasons to publish with The Conversation:

-        To reach an audience you wouldn’t normally reach
-        To learn to write about your research using non-specialist language
-        To focus your mind on the relevance of your research
-        To benefit your next grant/fellowship application
-        It could influence future policy and scientific debate.

This additional outlet for disseminating research outcomes is openly available to researchers with one proviso: you must be employed by or studying at a university – regardless of whether or not the university subscribes to The Conversation. 

Editorial teams cover diverse areas of expertise from the arts, business and politics to health, environment and education. Find out more:

Why not jot down a few lines on your new research findings or answer a topical question and send your pitch to one of the editors?

Slides from a talk given by Dr Miriam Frankl, Science Editor at The Conversation, can be viewed below. The talk was hosted by the Medical Sciences Division at the University of Oxford. 

Writing for The Conversation

Creative Commons and open content

Finding stories