“It is very gratifying! I hope that we publish over 40 articles in 2024, which should be realistic given the increased interest we have seen,” says Per Mickwitz pro vice-chancellor with responsibility for research.
Lund University has been a member since February 2017. Interest in The Conversation has increased at the University in recent times.
“We need to be even better at reaching out with our research, especially internationally. The Conversation is an important channel. This is because The Conversation is read by a lot of people and the articles are republished and spread widely.”
The articles published in The Conversation last year cover everything from the environment and climate to rat behaviour and bird-feeding. Other themes include human health and psychology, and social science and political issues, such as the Israel-Palestine conflict.
AI and poverty article was the most read
Ola Hall is the Lund University researcher who was most read in 2023. With two colleagues from Halmstad University, he wrote about AI and how they had trained a deep learning model to identify poverty. It has a total of over 60,000 reads on the platform.
He describes cooperation with The Conversation as smooth and efficient.
“When you are conducting research, you are totally immersed in your own work. There is a lot that you consider important, but the editor helps to identify what is most interesting. We also received help regarding language and making the text more understandable. The editors at The Conversation are very highly skilled.”
He read The Conversation before he wrote the pitch in order to propose something that was not too similar to previously published articles and to find out what type of articles are published on the platform.
“I knew that I could not just write for specialists in AI or poverty research but rather needed to apply a slightly wider perspective. For The Conversation, the thing is to use broader brushstrokes, make connections with societal development and not stay too close to the articles that we normally write.”
Attracting so many readers was both pleasing and surprising, comments Ola Hall.
“It is great in itself to be read, but it is also the case that new opportunities for collaboration have arisen. The most exciting thing was that a UN official got in touch and wanted to collaborate” says Ola Hall.
“Diverting and can lead to change”
Miriam Frankel is a well-known face to many of the researchers who have been involved with The Conversation over the years. She is science editor of The Conversation, originally from Sweden, and focuses on diverse subjects such as physics, space, neuroscience, psychology and typically Swedish issues.
Is there one particular article or research collaboration that you have found especially memorable from these years?
“There are a lot, but I would have to say Sune Svanberg’s fantastic article on his colleague, Lund University researcher Anne L'Huillier. There is so much joy and passion in the article and it was published quickly – the day after L'Huillier was awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics.”
Many of the member universities in The Conversation UK are from the UK. There are a few from Sweden. What can we do as a Swedish higher education institution to compete?
“Prioritise communicating about your research to the general public – universities in the UK have long been pressured to do that. Most researchers see it as self-evident.”
“It might perhaps be considered a waste of important research time to write popular science articles, but another argument is that taxpayers have a certain right to know how their money is being spent. And an even better argument is that it is diverting and can lead to change – many of our articles reach decision-makers around the world and are cited in reports by the EU, OECD, WHO, NASA etc.”
What are your best tips for those who want to write engaging and popular articles?
“Have a strong and engaging introduction (first paragraph) and use simple language – imagine that you are talking about your research with a friend over a cup of coffee. There is an enormous interest in science. As editor, I therefore rarely simplify concepts or ideas very much – what needs to be simplified is the language.”