Earlier this year, Andrew issued his Summer Science Outreach Challenge: Write an Op-Ed. Inspired, I thought I would straight up steal Andrew’s idea and give a few tips on writing an effective advocacy letter, the type of letter you’d send to a government official to ask them to help protect the ocean.
In my conservation career I’ve written hundreds of letters to all levels of government, from agency staff to presidents. Advocacy letters are one of the more effective tools in the arsenal of conservation tactics. They are a great way of communicating a message directly to a targeted person (assuming the letter gets read, of course!) and are a great way to kick off a discussion on protecting the ocean between concerned citizens and government officials. Here are a few tips: Read More
If you’ve been following along with our weekly round-up of ocean news, the Monday Morning Salvage (and, if not, why aren’t you reading the Monday Morning Salvage? It’s your one stop shop for the latest and greatest in ocean science and conservation news!) you probably noticed that we called for scientists and conservation professionals to write OpEds or Letters to the Editor this May. We heard from several folks that they submitted articles, though we haven’t heard back that any have been published yet (please leave a link in the comments if yours have). So, we’re extending the challenge and asking science and conservation professionals to take a stand for something you care about and submit a letter or article to your local paper.
Why? A recent study with a large sample size, published this year, demonstrated that OpEds can play a significant in shaping people’s opinions about political and social issues. Though this CATO Institute funded study has a distinctively libertarian slant in the issues they chose to use as treatments, the results are reasonably compelling. Not only did OpEds influence how readers felt about an issue, but regardless of political group, exposure to an OpEd made the reader more likely to agree with the author’s position.
“We find limited evidence of treatment effect heterogeneity by party identification: Democrats, Republicans, and independents all appear to move in the predicted direction by similar magnitudes… Despite large differences in demographics and initial political beliefs, we find that op-eds were persuasive to both the mass public and elites, but marginally more persuasive among the mass public.”
Being a scientist can be very frustrating, even infuriating. It might well be because of the inequalities and unfairness of academic life (such as incompetent administrators, a lack of funding, poor career prospects, or academic bullying and harassment ). However, if you work in the conservation field, the frustrations will positively abound. In addition to the depressingly high likelihood that you will see your study habitat or species disappear before your eyes, there are potentially the vexing roadblocks of your science being ignored – or being actively distorted – by policy makers, other scientists actively working against your efforts – either through their naivety or by deliberate design – or being attacked by crazy whacktivists because they think your approach is the wrong one .
Stress is often high among scientists, especially those involved in conservation. However, I have found one of easiest solutions to relieve the stress is to write about your problems. Putting all the anger and frustrations down on paper (or on screen) can be sublimely cathartic. You can feel your blood pressure literally dropping points with every word you write.