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Introducing Conversation Insights: a new team that seeks scoops from interdisciplinary research

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When establishing The Conversation in the UK in 2013, we realised there would be two different types of content we could generate that might be of value to the general public.

Given that all our articles are authored by academic experts, then edited by our professional journalists, there was obvious scope for the writers to bring their knowledge to bear on developing news events. The newsroom experience of our team would help them do so in a manner that was timely, and aimed at a mainstream audience.

Like our colleagues in Australia before us, we quickly found that such reactive articles were popular with readers and mainstream media republishers, who were keen to find informed, trusted voices to explain and analyse topical events.

But surely the incredible research that our authors conduct, allied with the explanatory skills our journalists have honed through their careers, could also proactively set news agendas? Yes, we were soon breaking stories as well.

As journalists across the media will attest, digging out and breaking news takes time, and thought. Just as researchers can spend months, years and lifetimes making key discoveries, journalists often invest significant time in considering what makes a story, and how best it can be told.

For a while we have been eager to explore what we could produce if we brought together an editor (or editors) with a little more time to spare with academics who had been engaged in long-term research projects. It felt like a natural extension of our project – and one that could generate really valuable, insightful content.

So, I am delighted that Research England has now awarded us a grant which will allow us to establish a team that will pursue such work. The Conversation Insights team will build on the interdisciplinary experience we have already built up with the Independent Social Research Foundation to generate great investigations with academics from differing backgrounds who have been engaged in projects aimed at tackling societal and scientific challenges.

The content will be also launched via leading mainstream news media outlets that we have already collaborated closely with.

The Conversation Insights team will consist of Josephine Lethbridge and Paul Keaveny. Together they bring a strong blend of journalistic experience, knowledge of The Conversation, and an understanding of the potential that exists within the Higher Education sector to produce groundbreaking exclusives that will be not only of interest, but hopefully of great use to readers around the world.

Based in Manchester, Paul also works for the BBC, is a former Sun northern correspondent and was a multimedia journalist covering major events for the Press Association. Josephine joined The Conversation as arts and culture editor in 2014, before becoming our interdisciplinary editor. She has an MA in English Literature from the University of Glasgow and an MSc in Science, Technology and Society from UCL.

All of us at The Conversation are incredibly excited about this development and grateful to Research England for giving us the opportunity to make it happen. We have already begun pursuing Conversation Insights projects. If you have ideas for studies that you believe could make great news, then do please get in touch with Josephine and Paul. We hope to see the first packages published in the first quarter of 2019.

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