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‘Academic rigour, journalistic flair’: Concordia partners with The Conversation Canada

The global news platform will directly connect the university’s researchers to 50 million monthly readers
June 26, 2017
By Fiona Downey

Damon Matthews: “Given the world’s growing social and environmental challenges, it is more important than ever for academics to make our research accessible to as wide an audience as possible.”

“Academic rigour, journalistic flair.” That’s the promise of The Conversation, a digital media outlet dedicated to bringing scholarly work to a general readership.

And now, the Australian-based online news source is launching its Canadian edition.

Live as of yesterday, June 25, The Conversation Canada is the latest expansion of an initiative that began in 2011 and whose platform now includes the UK, the US, and France, as well as an African edition based in Johannesburg and a global edition based in New York.

Professors Mary Lynn Young and Alfred Hermida of the University of British Columbia are the co-founders. "The launch of The Conversation Canada is an opportunity to contribute to the quality of explanatory journalism in this country — and the promise such journalism holds for democratic engagement, informed policy and media innovation," they state in an essay written for the first day of publication.

Concordia has signed on as one of 11 Canadian university partners. The university's president Alan Shepard says the platform will be a valuable outlet for academics looking to share their expertise beyond peer-reviewed publications.

“Our research informs public debates on a wide range of issues,” says Shepard. “Today’s scholars can play an important role in society,  sharing knowledge that has real impact on people’s lives the world over.”

A growing global audience

The Conversation network attracts 5 million users per month and reaches 50 million through republication of its articles. More than 22,000 media outlets worldwide use content from The Conversation, including the Guardian, the Washington Post, Maclean’s, Le Monde, Time Magazine and the Hindu.

Academics contribute articles on subjects in seven broad categories: arts and culture, business and economy, education, environment and energy, health and medicine, politics and society, and science and technology. The site also produces videos and podcasts.

Scott White, the newly appointed editor of The Conversation Canada, and former editor-in-chief of the Canadian Press, says the free flow of information produced by academics is the hallmark of the initiative, which is designed to complement the work of existing journalistic outlets.

“The Canadian public needs this kind of informed analysis and commentary more than ever,” says White. “The Conversation Canada is committed to bringing the depth of analysis and academic research from Canadian scholars to the general public and policy makers.”

‘It’s more important than ever to make our research accessible’

Damon Matthews, Concordia Research Chair in Climate Science and Sustainability, has first-hand experience with the news organization. It published his article on the effect of emission cuts on global warming in 2013.

“Given the world’s growing social and environmental challenges, it is more important than ever for academics to make our research accessible to as wide an audience as possible,” Matthews stresses. “The Conversation is a great model for the communication of academic research to colleagues in other disciplines, as well as to the general public.”

Nadia Naffi, a PhD candidate chosen as one of the university’s first Public Scholars, is excited about the opportunity as well.

“Through my research, I aim to equip and empower Canadian youth to lead an inclusive Canada in the era of social media, alternative facts and fake news,” Naffi says.

“My voice should be louder than those who strive to divide us, and my research results should be accessible to the wider public. In order to make a change, I need to reach people who not only are affected by this change but could also lead this change.”

The Canadian Press has agreed to distribute content. All material produced for The Conversation is available free to readers and can be republished by media outlets under an open access arrangement.

The Canadian edition of The Conversation will also work with academics who prefer to write in French, thanks to a collaboration with editors from The Conversation France. The writing will then be translated into English.

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