Starting The Conversation

Leeds has become a Founding Partner of The Conversation, a new online website focusing on topical issues from the academic and research community.

It has been set up to be an independent source of news and views, delivered direct to the public. On top of providing an easily accessible platform where the public can read about and discuss current affairs, The Conversation also provides mainstream media such as the BBC with a good source of commentary. From February, new sections for Arts & Culture and Education will shortly be added to join the existing strands for Business & Economy, Environment & Energy, Health & Medicine, Politics & Society and Science & Technology.

As a Founding Partner, Leeds receives exclusive benefits, including access to regular public engagement training for academics and also access to data about how many people are reading the articles.

Articles are usually between 800-1,000 words and are commissioned by specialist editors. If you’re interested in contributing to The Conversation, contact the press office ( / 34031) which can help advise on how best to pitch your idea and recommend strategies for promoting your work to the wider media too.

Dr Nick Robinson (School of Politics & International Studies):

“My research focuses on the nature of the representations within videogames and their social and political consequences. The Conversation asked me to write four articles, but I chose to only write two – How Hiroshi Yamauchi and Nintendo changed the world and Realistic war games have collateral damage of their own. “There’s no shortage of material to write about and The Conversation is a good way of making academic knowledge accessible to the general public. The process is very quick and professional, but sometimes it could be unrealistic to write 1,000 words in 24 hours.”

Dr Terry Kee (School of Chemistry) on The Conversation:

How did you get involved?
I was asked to comment on a piece of scientific research that claimed to have found evidence of extra-terrestrial life. The Conversation and asked me to write something that would summarise my view. As a result, I’ve written two articles about life from other planets: Life on Mars or life from Mars? It’s how it formed that matters; and Proof of alien life? You need a lot more evidence than that.

Tell us about the process?

It was a fairly easy and straightforward in terms of commission, writing and deadline. They sent me an email telling me the word count and broad layout and I simply wrote the article and sent it over.

The editor tweaked it to The Conversation’s format, dropped in a few appropriate pictures and sent it back to me. Editorial additions were pointed out and there was nothing added that I couldn’t sign off. The whole process was exemplary.

I was particularly impressed by their efficiency. Both times I got the articles back within a couple of hours.

Would you encourage other academics to get involved?

Absolutely. You can use The Conversation to get your own work, interests and thoughts out into the public domain, and it can also be used to critique work. The wider public need to know that sometimes what is being disseminated in the media may not be true.

One thing that I like is that articles become almost like a live blog after they’ve been published, meaning that people can read and respond to them. It’s really important to get feedback from the public and I’ve had all sorts of comments, some of them agreeing and some disagreeing with me. This is where The Conversation opens up debate and people are more likely to express their views because they can put them across quite easily. You can’t do this to the same degree with a printed magazine or journal.

Posted in: