Bringing Science to the Public: Recapping NSPN's Op-ed Workshop


Thirty-five science policy op-eds are in the works, thanks to participants in NSPN’s Op-ed Workshop.

Dr. Luci Herman, Director of the Stanford Law School Policy Labs, partnered with NSPN to lead a two-hour interactive workshop talking participants through the key strategies to writing and sharing an effective op-ed article as a scientist. “Our goal was to help people shape their ideas and science into language that a non-expert in their community could understand and promote,” said Sindhu Nathan, NSPN’s Vice-Chair of Communications and workshop organizer. “A lot of our members and peers in the scientific community have really powerful ideas for how we can better our communities, but aren’t sure how to most effectively disseminate that information - and an op-ed is a great way to do that.”

The workshop, held virtually on October 16, 2020, prompted participants to come in with a 300 word preliminary draft. During the workshop, participants worked with a partner to improve the lede’s of their stories (the “hook” that draws your audience in and highlights the importance of your issue). Attendees also learned about and practiced using the “SWOT” method (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats) to organize their argument. “The structure of NSPN’s Op-Ed workshop was very productive and provided great hands-on writing experience!” says Rachel Haake, one of the attendees. “Working with a partner to create my lede and actively brainstorming other crucial components (e.g. the SWOT) allowed me to leave the workshop feeling much closer to publication. Plus, attendees joined from all over the world, providing participants the opportunity to connect with scientists they otherwise may not have met.” 

Dr. Herman highlighted how grounding your op-ed’s merit in your expertise is essential, but that expertise doesn’t have to mean that you have a PhD, or even a degree in the subject. She also emphasized the power of a professional Twitter in spreading your message and developing your identity as an expert on the subjects your op-eds are about.

After the workshop, participants were paired up with other writers from the event to finish their articles and publish. “It’s exciting that so many people are ready to get their recommendations out there, especially so close to the election,” says Sindhu. “But as one of the registrants said, this work isn’t going to stop when this presidential election cycle ends. I hope these participants feel equipped to continue writing op-eds well beyond November 3rd.”

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To get involved with op-ed writing, check out NSPN’s Op-ed Accelerator and stay tuned for new calls on urgent science policy topics!

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