When The Conversation first launched in the UK, it was hugely reliant on a small number of early supporters to get the project off the ground. Perhaps none were more important than Professor Sir Paul Curran, President of City, University of London, who in addition to helping us attract members, secure funding and acting as our founding Chair, also gave us a home.
For the first six years of The Conversation, its offices were a converted caretaker’s flat on the roof of City’s University Building on Northampton Square. Those who visited may recall its quirks: the front door, the bathtub, the domestic kitchen, not to mention the editors’ constantly updated “banned list” of words and phrases. They will also recall the spectacular views south across the City, and north towards the hills of Hampstead.
When I arrived at The Conversation last summer, it became clear that we would need to move before long. We had outgrown it. While the space was fit for a start-up, we had developed into an established news publisher. At launch we had six editors, but by 2018 this had grown to more than 20, working with more than 80 universities for a monthly audience of close to 4m a month on our site alone.
Sir Paul had also shared the exciting plans for the extension of City’s library as part of a transformation of the university’s estate. Inevitably, this meant our little flat would be demolished.
We still felt it was important for us to be embedded within an academic institution, so I began discussions with several member universities to explore our options. As a result, as of the beginning of September I’m delighted that The Conversation now has a new home at University College London. UCL needs no introduction, as one of the world’s great research universities. Along with City, it was one of The Conversation UK’s thirteen founding partners. I’m particularly grateful to Professor David Price, Vice-Provost (Research) at UCL, a long-standing champion of The Conversation, for making this possible.
At UCL we are co-located with the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP). STEaPP, led by Professor Joanna Chataway, brings experts from across science, technology and engineering together with policy experts to tackle today’s most pressing global challenges, from access to energy to climate change and congested cities. A mission that is deeply complementary with our own charitable purpose.
Our new office is in Shropshire House, Capper Street, off Tottenham Court Road. It gives us room to grow, expand our internship programmes, and host editors from other editions delivering more to both our readers and our member universities. It’s now easier for us to welcome members, partners and supporters to join our morning news conference, when our editors discuss their upcoming stories. Do get in touch if you’d like to attend.
However, while we now have a new home in London, The Conversation is not London-centric, and never has been. A third of our editors are based outside London. And of course, our authors are drawn from universities all over the UK, and beyond. In fact we may be the most geographically diverse news publisher in the country. We have member universities in Ireland, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland, and work closely with our French and Spanish editions to support academics from across Europe.
Across the whole network, stories commissioned by The Conversation are now republished in 90 countries, in 23 languages, and read more than 40m times a month. In the UK alone, we’ve published 24,000 articles written by 14,000 academics since we launched. With a new home secured, I hope we’ll be able to grow even further.