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Writing scientific commentaries


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In this #popupwebinar Ninad Bondre and Owen Gaffney discuss turning scientific research into an agenda-setting commentary - these are opinion pieces for top scientific journals such as Nature and Science.

Published in: Science
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Writing scientific commentaries

  1. 1. Pitching, writing and publishing scientific commentaries Ninad Bondre Senior Science Editor and Advisor International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) Owen Gaffney Director, International Media and Strategy Stockholm Resilience Centre Communications Consultant, Future Earth
  2. 2. A portfolio approach to research communication • Academic papers • Blogs • Press releases/stories/interviews • Social/audio-visual media • Commentaries and op-eds • Policy briefs • Discussions and meetings
  3. 3. Front-half Back-half
  4. 4. Possible, high-quality outlets • Nature (World View/Comment) • Science (Policy Forum) • Nature Geoscience • Nature Climate Change • Nature Plants • Nature Energy (New!) • The Lancet
  5. 5. The perfect commentary • Expresses clear views/opinions/recommendations • Timed to inform an important ongoing activity or a forthcoming event • Aims to stimulate thought and action; shape the policy agenda
  6. 6. Ideal commentaries are • Timely and relevant • Novel • Brief and to the point (500-1500 words) • Focused on single issues & include examples • Single authored or with a limited number of co- authors • Constructive even when critical
  7. 7. Agenda-setting Provocative Action Road-map Solution Arguments Contemporary Personal voice Who What To whom When How Impact
  8. 8. Nature commentary guidelines Comment pieces are generally agenda-setting, authoritative, informed and often provocative expert pieces calling for action on topical issues pertaining to scientific research and its political, ethical and social ramifications. They road-map a proposed solution in detail; they do not simply snapshot a problem. Alternatively comment pieces can be writerly historical narratives or conceptual or philosophical arguments of pressing contemporary relevance, told with authority, colour, vivacity and personal voice. These attempt to bring an original perspective before the widest readership, through erudite reasoning and telling examples. Specifics: e.g. who must do what exactly to whom, when, how, over what time period; and, importantly, what will be the impact of heeding your call to action, and of not doing so?
  9. 9. Pitching a commentary • Get to know the journal(s) What has the journal published on your topic in the recent past? When and why? • Get to know the editors Invite editors to conferences/workshops; seek them out at conferences (e.g. NPG/AAAS booths)
  10. 10. Title • Brief and informative • Ideally no longer than 60 characters (5-10 words) • Active verbs • No question marks For example: Realizing China’s urban dream Time to stop celebrating the polluters
  11. 11. Stand-first • Succinct summary of the recommendation(s)/main message • Ideally no longer than 300 characters For example: Planetary stability must be integrated with United Nations targets to fight poverty and secure human well- being, argue David Griggs and colleagues.
  12. 12. Main body • Frame the issue/present the problem • Diagnose the causes • Propose remedies (remember: who should do what, how, when, etc.) • Provide concrete examples, case studies that support the diagnosis and solutions Some examples that we worked on are in the following slides