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From the Editors

Impact and change: why it’s crucially important for The Conversation to prosper

Thank you to everyone who has already contributed to our donations campaign.

It’s almost the end of the financial year, and our 2018 donations campaign, so it seemed timely to publish some of our authors and supporters explaining why they contribute to The Conversation. Agree with what they say? Show your support by donating here.

Dr Alice Gorman, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology and Space Studies, Flinders University

Dr Alice Gorman is an internationally recognised leader in the emerging field of space archaeology.

At Flinders University, I teach the archaeology of both ancient and modern societies – including space exploration. Most of my articles for The Conversation are about space, whether it’s the heritage of space junk in Earth orbit, poems about the Moon, or the Voyager spacecraft, launched in 1977 with their iconic Golden Records capturing the music and sounds of daily life on Earth.

Recently I went to visit my mother Tish, who lives in a tiny country town. She usually reads The Conversation while sipping her morning coffee. On this day I set up a temporary desk in her dining room to work on an article about the theories of an early 20th century Russian space scientist. While my brain was in the asteroid belt, Tish called out to ask if I’d seen an article just published about Australian archaeology. In that moment our conversation crossed rooms, centuries, and worlds.

This, for me, exemplifies how The Conversation has become woven into the fabric of everyday life. It’s become my preferred way to engage with the news. Sometimes I contribute myself, with the expert guidance of my editors. Whether as readers or writers, many contributions help keep The Conversation vibrant and relevant. But it does take financial resources too, so as you read today’s newsletter, please consider a donation. We need a strong, independent news source more than ever.

Dr Cameron Webb, Principal Hospital Scientist & Clinical Lecturer, University of Sydney & NSW Health Pathology

Dr Cameron Webb is a Clinical Lecturer with the University of Sydney and Principal Hospital Scientist with the Department of Medical Entomology at NSW Health Pathology based at Westmead Hospital.

My job is to help stop Australians falling ill from mosquito-borne disease. The best way to do that is to share safe and effective tips on preventing mosquito bites. If you don’t get bitten in the first place, hopefully you won’t get sick. Writing for The Conversation has been a game changer, both in the way I communicate these public health messages but also how I can engage with the community and learn what they want to know about mosquitoes and the prevention of mosquito-borne disease.

Since 2012 I’ve written over 40 articles for The Conversation. More than 3 million people have read my articles on mosquitoes, bed bugs, ticks, head lice and flies.

The opportunity provided by The Conversation is unique and your continued support to maintain this resource is essential. Without it, there would be few options for scientists to share their research directly with the community and foster an appreciation of the science behind these public health messages. If you have the capacity to contribute, please make a donation now.

Dr Tom Clark, Associate Professor, Victoria University

Tom Clark teaches across a range of disciplines in Victoria University’s new First Year Model, as well as supervising Research thesis students.

Since its inception in 2011, I have admired The Conversation for connecting a public interest in the news with ethical and informed knowledge about it. Most of my research is into rhetoric and political communication. Writing for The Conversation, I have been pushed to explore speeches and their significance in real time, as unfolding moments in the public events that draw attention from millions or even billions of people.

Doing this ethically, being open about what is known and not known, is one of the most satisfying challenges a researcher can take on. In return, work in The Conversation reaches hundreds and thousands of times as many readers as a peer reviewed journal article.

If we didn’t have The Conversation it is all too easy to imagine living in a world dominated by untrustworthy news, cooked up by ignorant posers and skewed by vested interests.

I support The Conversation because it is such an efficient and credible force against such a world. Please donate and support The Conversation.

Sue Dean, Lecturer, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney

Sue Dean is a lecturer in the Faculty of Health at UTS.

My area of research is the development of empathetic and caring behaviours in health care professionals.In 2017 I was contacted by The Conversation to contribute to a series of articles they were preparing on empathy in various areas – the media, health, and I was tasked with looking at “are our doctors and nurses losing empathy?”.

I prepared my article and as it required a different style of writing to what I was used to, I found it quite difficult. I persevered as I am an avid reader of The Conversation and I appreciate that it reaches an extremely broad audience. I was absolutely amazed that the morning my article appeared, I had five requests for National radio interviews, I subsequently had over 16,000 reads of the article and I received almost 1,000 emails in response – most commenting on personal experiences usually regarding the lack of empathy they received in interactions with health care providers. The Conversation is a wonderful space to share research with a wide audience. Please support it with a donation so it can continue this important work.

Professor Marguerite Johnson, Ancient History and Classical Languages, The University of Newcastle

Marguerite Johnson is Professor of Classics at The University of Newcastle.

I’ve been writing for The Conversation since 2013 and have written 19 articles.

Working with the terrific editorial team in Arts + Culture has enabled me to communicate my research and my discipline of Ancient History and Ancient Cultures to a national and international audience. An exhilarating aspect of writing for The Conversation is the ongoing confirmation of an active community, passionate about history, fine art, and literature. This is evident in the high numbers of readers and comments I have received (328,504 and 832 respectively).

What makes The Conversation unique is the platform it provides to Arts and Culture scholars and writers. This space extends from reviews to longer pieces such as ‘Friday Essay’, which is a rarity in online free media outlets.

For academics wishing to share their research, articles in The Conversation extend to creative commons republication. I’ve also enjoyed an increased media presence, with regular interviews on radio, as well as a story picked up by the 7:30 Report and another by National Geographic.

A not-for-profit educational charity, The Conversation promotes the sharing of healthy democratic knowledge. Of benefit to university and research sectors, governments and industries, it champions a reciprocal exchange system. Giving back to the community requires the continuation of the support that has contributed to The Conversation being a media phenomenon of integrity and excellence. Please make a donation and support The Conversation’s important work.

Professor Clare Collins, Director of Research, School of Health Sciences, The University of Newcastle

Clare Collins is a Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics in the School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medicine at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia.

I value writing for The Conversation because it gives me a practical vehicle to translate nutrition science into a conversation about food, and what that means for our health and well-being. The Conversation provides an endorsement of credibility, quality and authority from academic authors, not to mention that it gives you access to an international audience.

Let’s face it, nutrition science is complicated! The body of research on a topic about food and nutrition can be messy. I love the challenge of sifting through the research studies, explaining key concepts in nutrition and then synthesising what the research evidence means for people, and more importantly what it means in practical terms for the foods they choose to put their grocery trolleys and in their mouths.

Writing for The Conversation for me is just as important as any other aspect of my work and so I make it a priority. While my research papers generate citations by other researchers, and that is one mark of research impact, millions of people get access to my articles with thanks to The Conversation’s republication policy, and that is a mark of public impact.

Please help this work continue by donating to The Conversation.

Michelle Smith, Senior Lecturer in Literary Studies, Monash University

Michelle Smith is a Senior Lecturer in Literary Studies at Monash University where she teaches fairy tale and children’s literature.

I write for The Conversation because it is a receptive space in which to share my research and scholarly expertise with readers outside the academy. Other media outlets are more closely bound to the rapid news cycle. The Conversation fosters slow journalism, not necessarily driven by reactions to events. Yet it still provides a space for informed and insightful accounts of current stories that complement traditional media articles.

I’ve written for several newspapers and online sites, and there is a marked difference in how I can write for The Conversation in comparison. Traditional newspapers generally do not allow for breaking into explanations of theorists of gender, sexuality, or history. When I write for The Conversation, I know that marrying these scholarly ideas with real-world issues is what I’m uniquely positioned to do. While it can initially be a challenge to drop the dense language and structure of academic writing, it is liberating to show how these ideas really do matter. I believe they have the potential to change how wider society thinks about everything from politics to pop culture.

As print journalism struggles to survive, and conventional models of journalism are in flux with the wide availability of free sources of information, it is crucially important for The Conversation to prosper. In an era of fake news and sensationalist clickbait, the authority and rigour of curated academic perspectives on our past, present, and future have never had such a vital role to play. Please make a donation and support this important journalism project.

Dr Joanne Orlando, Researcher: Technology and Learning, Western Sydney University

Dr Joanne provides online and in-person courses that help to ensure that children’s technology use is quality, balanced and gives them the edge they need to flourish in the digital age.

Writing for The Conversation enables me to share my research and introduce new ideas and new insights into public debate. All of my articles receive significant attention from mainstream media and are followed up by many media interviews on radio and/or TV including breakfast TV, the News, panels show, and documentaries. The Conversation articles can also be republished so I have found my articles republished in mainstream media nationally and internationally including such diverse places as Daily Telegraph, Chicago Tribune, and key industry publications in my field. I was even on a flight on Virgin Airlines and found one of my articles in their inflight magazine.

My articles in The Conversation are a way that I can make research accessible to everyone. If you can, please make a donation and support The Conversation.

Hassan Vally, Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology, La Trobe University

Hassan is an epidemiologist with considerable experience in the analysis and interpretation of health data.

Contributing to The Conversation has yielded unexpected benefits for me. The Conversation, with its considerable reach, has allowed me to communicate directly with a much wider audience than I usually do. Judging by the number people that have read my articles so far, the interest from the media and even the interest from fellow academics, I know these articles have had an impact.

I will continue to write articles for The Conversation, as I believe now more than ever academics need to directly engage with the public and communicate in an accessible way to counteract the misinformation that sometimes dominates the landscape. Being able to access the considerable expertise of the editors at The Conversation, who hold your hand and coach you through the sometimes challenging process of writing a short article pitched to the general public, has been a positive experience. I feel this has improved my writing in general, which I believe will serve me in other areas.

If, like me, you value the work The Conversation does, please make a donation to support their ongoing contribution to informing the public.

Professor Fabrizio Carmignani, Dean (Academic) Griffith Business School, Griffith University

Fabrizio Carmignani is currently a Dean of Griffith Business School and has expertise in many research areas of economics.

I started to write for The Conversation back in October 2011. My first article was about economic prospects in Libya in the post-Gaddafi era. Since then, I have written another 90 articles on topics ranging from Australian budget policy to the European economic crisis, income inequality and economic growth. In June 2014 I even wrote a piece about the Soccer World Cup, in which I used some economic analysis to predict the placement of the various teams. I ended up guessing correctly three out of the four semi-finalists. I write for The Conversation because it is an excellent way to reach out to a broad audience of interested readers. For a long time, academics have been (more or less willingly) secluded in an ivory tower, doing excellent research work that however was read by other academics only. The Conversation has given us the opportunity to come out by facilitating communication between researchers, policymakers, and the public.

As an economist, I often think of The Conversation as a “public good”; that is, something of which we generally need more. For this reason, I sincerely thank those of you who have supported The Conversation in the past and I hope that in the future you continue to support it by signing up for a monthly donation.

Amy Maguire, Senior Lecturer in International Law and Human Rights, University of Newcastle

Amy Maguire is a senior lecturer in international law at the University of Newcastle Law School.

I’ve had the privilege of writing for The Conversation for four years now. I remember very clearly the morning I received a first invitation to contribute an article – in that case, it was about a refugee matter before the High Court. Could I have my draft back by midday that day? For someone used to months-away deadlines, I felt a mix of panic and excitement. And after publication, I watched in amazement as the audience for my report grew and very quickly surpassed the number of readers of all the articles I had published in academic journals. In the years since, my articles have attracted almost 4,000 comments from readers (not all complimentary!).

I contribute to The Conversation because it enables me, as a publicly-funded researcher, to engage in public discussion in my fields of research. This adds an entirely new dimension to my engagement with academic audiences through traditional publication and gives me feedback I would never otherwise receive. I also think that the challenge of translating research outcomes into short, accessible articles has made me a better communicator and more aware of the interests of different audiences.

The Conversation has quickly established itself as an essential read for people who demand evidence-based reporting and commentary. I hope you will support The Conversation with a donation. It is a truly distinctive media model, and I’m proud to play a small role in it.

Associate Professor Ian Mackay, Virologist, UQ Child Health Research Centre, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Queensland

Ian designs, validates and employs molecular techniques to support clinical and public health needs, helping to discover and characterize known, new, newly identified and rare viruses.

I work to identify and characterize viruses that threaten the public health of Australians. In my life as a virologist, I’ve published nearly 100 articles for other scientists, but none have had the measurable reach and interest of any one of my articles in The Conversation.

Writing evidence-based stories about viruses for a wider public audience has been an incredibly positive experience. It gives authors a rare chance to give back to and make contact with the public by weighing in on topical issues that concern us all. For me, these have included informing the community about influenza, debunking exaggerated headlines about viruses or explaining how Ebola virus or Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus outbreaks emerged.

The Conversation recruits experts to write understandable stories and it helps us do that because of its excellent collaborative editorial crew. This team produces timely, relevant stories that are easy to read.

Today, perhaps more than at any other time, reliable, accurate and sensibly presented news sources are essential to understanding the world around us and to help us act as responsible global citizens in it. The Conversation is one such source. Please make a donation now to continue this.

Associate Professor Jason Lodge, Principal Research Fellow, Science of Learning Research Centre, School of Education, The University of Queensland

Jason Lodge, PhD is a psychological scientist and Associate Professor of Educational Psychology in the School of Education, University of Queensland.

Everyone has an opinion about education but it is difficult to know where to get good, evidence-based information. The Conversation provides much needed commentary and analysis from qualified, recognised experts in education. As a reader, The Conversation therefore provides what I need to get a clear sense of what is really happening in education and why.

As a writer, The Conversation is a vital outlet for communicating important research findings. The response to the articles I have written has been great. The Conversation has been a fantastic outlet for communicating with teachers, policymakers and the general public and has been pivotal in helping ensure that the research my colleagues and I are doing is making a difference.

Please support The Conversation with a donation.

Professor Ian Jacobs, President and Vice-Chancellor, UNSW Sydney

Ian Jacobs is a British academic, medical doctor, gynaecological oncologist and researcher.

In a media world experiencing disruptive change The Conversation (TC) stands out as an exemplar of informed, knowledge-based communication and healthy democratic discourse. Linking academic writers with professional editors, to bring university knowledge and ideas to a broad audience was a brilliant concept. It is no surprise that it has managed to engage the energy and attention of thousands of academics and millions of readers across the globe. TC started in Australia but the power of the idea and the quality of the delivery, quickly led to an international network with TC editions in the UK, the USA, Africa, France, Canada and Indonesia. TC is now established as a powerful vehicle for free access to free expression of evidence, ideas and views, in a world which desperately needs this quality of publishing.

Every day in TC you can read expert articles ranging from news and aspects of current affairs, to science, the humanities and culture. Key features of TC are that it is free to contribute, free to read and free to republish. That makes it dependent financially upon individuals and organisations that care about the future of our media and a free and open public discourse. TC is precious to Australia and our global community. I admire what has been achieved so far and encourage you to read and support this wonderful venture.

Dr Michael Spence AC, Vice-Chancellor, University of Sydney

Dr Spence’s work includes articles and books on both intellectual property law and the law of obligations, with a critical focus on suggested ethical and economic justifications of the existing regimes.

Universities have long been home to debates of ideas and it is wonderful The Conversation provides a powerful platform for these discussions to inform a broader audience.

Every day, University of Sydney academics engage with The Conversation’s team of professional editors, collaborating to ensure their expertise across a broad range of topics is presented in an accessible and engaging way. I know they appreciate the opportunity to have their research heard and discussed around the world.

As the media landscape changes and scepticism grows, it is more important than ever that we elevate research and evidence so that it may impact public debates and policy decision making.

As The Conversation strengthens its media partnerships and its global influence expands, I look forward to seeing our academics’ ideas continue to be shared, and wish the team all the best in ensuring a strong media in Australia’s future.

Professor Steve Chapman, Vice-Chancellor, Edith Cowan University

Steven Kenneth Chapman is Vice-Chancellor of Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia.

Edith Cowan University is committed to research that has positive, tangible impacts for the community. An important part of this is communication. The Conversation is an important link between the laboratory and the public, giving our researchers the platform to not only explain their own work, but draw on their expertise to explain and make sense of some of the big issues facing our society.

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