The Conversation is a network of not-for-profit media outlets publishing news stories and research reports online, with accompanying expert opinion and analysis. Articles are written by academics and researchers under a free Creative Commons license, allowing reuse without modification. Its model has been described as explanatory journalism. Except in "exceptional circumstances", it only publishes articles by "academics employed by, or otherwise formally connected to, accredited institutions, including universities and accredited research bodies".: 8
|Type of business||Not-for-profit|
Type of site
|Analysis, commentary, research, news|
|Available in||English, French, Spanish, Indonesian|
|Launched||24 March 2011|
|CC Attribution / No derivatives 4.0|
It first launched in Australia in March 2011. The network has since expanded globally with a variety of local editions originating from around the world. In September 2019, The Conversation reported a monthly online audience of 10.7 million users, and a combined reach of 40 million people including republication. The site employs over 150 full-time staff.
Each regional or national edition of The Conversation is an independent not-for-profit or charity funded by various sources such as partnered universities and university systems, governments and other grant awarding bodies, corporate partners, and reader donations.
Jaspan first discussed the concept of The Conversation in 2009 with Glyn Davis, vice-chancellor at The University of Melbourne. Jaspan wrote a report for the university's communications department on the university's engagement with the public, envisioning the university as "a giant newsroom", with academics and researchers collaboratively providing expert, informed content that engaged with the news cycle and major current affairs issues. This vision became the blueprint for The Conversation.
Jaspan and Rejtman were provided support by Melbourne University in mid-2009 which allowed time to incubate the business model. By February 2010 they had developed their model, branding and business identity which they launched to potential support partners by way of an Information Memorandum in February 2010.
The founders secured $10m in funding from four universities (Melbourne, Monash, Australian National University, University of Western Australia), CSIRO, the Victorian State Government, the Australian Federal Government, and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.[additional citation(s) needed] The Conversation Media Group opened its Carlton office in November 2010 with a small team, and launched to the public in March 2011.
Departure of Andrew JaspanEdit
In March 2017, Andrew Jaspan resigned as executive director and editor, six months after being placed on enforced leave after complaints from senior staff in Melbourne about his management style and the global direction of the group. Management of the UK, U.S., and Africa offices also wrote a letter of no confidence to the Conversation Media Group asking that Jaspan not have an active role in the future.
Articles are written by academic researchers in their respective areas of expertise. They either pitch topics or are specifically commissioned to write on a topic in which they are a subject-matter expert, including for articles about current events. The Conversation's core staff then edits these articles, ensuring a balance between reader accessibility and academic rigor. The original authors then review the edited version. Topics include politics, society, health, science, and the environment. Authors are required to disclose conflicts of interest. All articles are published under a Creative Commons Attribution/No derivatives license.
In 2016, the FactCheck unit of The Conversation became the first such team in Australia and one of only two worldwide units accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network, an alliance of fact-checkers hosted at the Poynter Institute in the U.S. The assessment criteria require non-partisanship, fairness, transparency of funding, sources, and methods, and a commitment to open and honest corrections.
The Conversation uses a custom publishing and content management system built in Ruby on Rails. This system enables authors and editors to collaborate on articles in real time. Articles link to author profiles—including disclosure statements—and personal dashboards showing authors' engagement with the public.
From its first Melbourne-headquartered Australian edition, The Conversation has expanded to a global network of eight editions, operating in multiple languages.
This has included expansions into the United Kingdom in 2013, United States in 2014, Africa and France in 2015, Canada in 2017, Indonesia in 2017, and Spain in 2018. The website also has an international staff.
As of 2018, 36% of its readership was in Australia, 29% was in the United States, 7% in the United Kingdom, 4% in Canada, and 24% elsewhere.
|Edition||Year of Launch||Editor||Management||Number of Editors|
|Australia||2011||Misha Ketchell||Lisa Watts (CEO)||24|
|United Kingdom||2013||Jo Adetunji||Chris Waiting (CEO)||23|
|United States||2014||Beth Daley||Bruce Wilson (Chief Innovation and Development Officer)||17|
|Africa||2015||Caroline Southey||Alexandra Storey (General Manager)||13|
|France||2015||Fabrice Rousselot||Caroline Nourry (Directrice générale)||12|
|Spain||2018||Rafael Sarralde||Miguel Castro (Secretario general)||8|
Across the whole network, stories commissioned by The Conversation are now republished in 90 countries, in 23 languages, and read more than 40m times a month.
The Conversation AfricaEdit
The Conversation launched an African edition in May 2015. It has offices in Kenya, Senegal, Nigeria, South Africa, and Ghana. As of 2021, most of the authors that published content in The Conversation Africa were affiliated with South African universities, and the website's content initially focused on South Africa. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided $3m funding.
The Conversation CanadaEdit
The Canadian edition of The Conversation was co-founded on June 26, 2017 by Alfred Hermida and Mary Lynn Young, associate professors in the field of journalism at the University of British Columbia. Launch funding was partly provided in the form of a $200,000 grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The project was joined by Universities Canada as a strategic sponsor, and it partnered with a number of Canadian universities such as the University of Toronto. The founding editor of The Conversation Canada is Scott White, the former editor-in-chief of The Canadian Press. A French-language Canadian edition, La Conversation Canada, launched in 2018.
The Conversation UKEdit
Andrew Jaspan secured seed funding to develop the case to launch The Conversation into the UK in 2012. It launched in the UK on 16 May 2013 with Jonathan Hyams as chief executive, Stephen Khan as editor and Max Landry as chief operating officer, alongside co-founder, Andrew Jaspan. It had 13 founder members, including City, University of London. City's president, Professor Sir Paul Curran chaired its board of trustees. Landry took over from Hyams as chief executive shortly after launch.
Membership grew to more than 80 universities in the UK and Europe, including Cambridge, Oxford, and Trinity College Dublin. By 2019 it had published 24,000 articles written by 14,000 academics. In April 2018, it appointed former BBC and AP executive Chris Waiting as its new CEO. The Conversation UK is 90 percent funded by partnered universities, with other funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Wellcome Trust.
The Conversation U.S.Edit
Andrew Jaspan was invited in 2012 to bring The Conversation to the United States. Thomas Fiedler, then dean of the School of Communications at Boston University, offered to host The Conversation U.S. and provide space for the first newsroom. With a university base established, he was able to raise the $2.3m launch funding. The U.S. edition of The Conversation was first published on 21 October 2014, initially led by Jaspan as U.S. CEO, Margaret Drain as editor, and Bruce Wilson leading development and university relations. The U.S. pilot was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and four other foundations. Beth Daley was appointed editor and general manager in March 2019, when Maria Balinska moved to the US-UK Fulbright Commission. The U.S. edition of The Conversation was originally based at Boston University, and that was its first partnered university. It later opened offices in Atlanta and New York. Other partnered institutions include Harvard University and MIT.
Articles originally published in The Conversation have received republication on a regular basis by major news outlets. These have included The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, and CNN.
The Conversation has been described in Public Understanding of Science as "a blend of scientific communication, public science communication and science journalism, and a convergence of the professional worlds of science and journalism".
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