Summer Science Outreach Challenge: Write an OpEd.

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.

Simone Giertz builds the best robots on the internet.

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.”


Why local? There are two really good reasons to publish in a local newspaper, rather than a big national paper (three, if you also include the fact that it’s really hard to get an OpEd placed in the New York Times). People trust local. The hometown paper is written by folks you know. Hearing about an issue from your friendly, neighborhood scientist is far more compelling than hearing about it from Dr. Farflung from the University of West Statesland.

Writing local also means you can connect to local issues. Writing about how climate change is making Kiribati disappear is important and certainly compelling, but writing about how Chesapeake Bay communities are losing coastlines, fisheries, and cemeteries due to sea level rise, in a Chesapeake Bay regional paper is much more likely to have a personal impact on people. And local papers are hungry for content.

The best way to connect with an audience is to write with informed passion and let people know that you’re not imparting wisdom from on high; you’re in this with them.

What should I write about? You should write about what you care about and what you feel you can speak to with authority and expertise. Whether it’s climate change, plastic waste, beach access, coastal erosion, runaway development, run off, or any other critical ocean issue (I mean, you don’t have to write about ocean issues, but we are an ocean science and conservation blog).

Can you help? If there’s enough interest, we’re thinking about setting up a Slack channel for ocean scientists drafting their own OpEds or Letters to the Editor. Leave a comment here or ping me on to let me know if you’re interested.

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One comment

  1. Jim · May 30, 2018

    Andrew, i am very interested in contributing about the Chesapeake bay. I’ve been working with the chesapeake bay foundation and some vims folks looking for additional outreach and use of robotics tech for bay conservation. I’ll email you soon. Thanks!

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