In 2017, 500 Women Scientists partnered with the Union of Concerned Scientists and Rise Stronger on a 'Summer of Op-Eds' writing campaign. In conjunction with the campaign, our partners hosted webinars that have been archived, with notes below.
RISE Stronger hosted an Op-Eds Project webinar focusing on the FY2018 Science & Technology budget as part of our Summer of Op-Eds campaign. You can find the webinar recording here. While the FY2018 budget has passed, many of the takeaways can apply to any kind of Op-Ed related to science advocacy.
Remember the target audience: Goal is to argue for the importance of science funding and convince people on the fence, not preach to the choir. Therefore, write for local newspapers' readerships that are fiscally conservative, republican and independent voters... folks that don't typically support non-defense federal funding (including science and research), but could be swayed by a strong argument.
Structure of argument:
- Congress and the President are threatening to cut non-defense spending
- Defense funding keeps us safe, but non-defense funding helps build a better society
- Explain why non-defense funding is important (science or non-science)
- A local example of non-defense funding includes XX (local example audience cares about) and includes science
- However, as a scientist, I am most concerned about what federal funding cuts to XX program mean to our XX...
- Why science is good for society… explain through the lens of a story, why it is important for health, economy, safety (again - try to connect to your audience here who are fairly moderate)
- Do some research, find out where the federal money goes in your county/state and talk specifically about what those programs do and bring; good example was EPA Superfund programs in NJ
- Conclude: We're calling on Congress to make support non-defense funding in the FY2018 budget
- Intro needs to be short and catchy! You have ~2 sentences to capture editor to be published
- Sentences and paragraphs need to be short so piece keeps moving
- Narrative style- descriptive language with story; keep stats to 2-3
- Have 1-2 other readers look at it before submitting
- Expect ~2-4 hours to write, 1-2 hours to edit
- Think about where to submit…hometown may make more sense (more of the target audience) than current residence, but make sure to identify yourself as part of the local community
- Check out this list of successful, published Op-Eds from the campaign
The UCS Letter to the Editor (LTE) webinar was put on by a former editor at the Boston Globe as well as a communications specialist from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Check out a recording of the webinar with the slides. At the end of the recording, look in the lower left-hand corner to find a link to a resource that locates your nearest newspaper.
In the presentations and Q&A, they emphasized these takeaway points:
- Say something new and original.
- Do not submit your letter anonymously. If you are not able to sign your own name, find someone else in your 500WS pod or other colleague who would be appropriate and willing to put their name forward. If there are no good options, let us know and we can help (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Since the election, the editors have been overrun by LTE and Op-Ed submissions and some are not local. Submit to your own local paper where you are a part of the community.
- Be timely. You can have the best-written piece that takes two weeks and misses the punch. Therefore, it won't get published.