Since it was launched in Australia in 2011, The Conversation.com, an academic blog that’s all dressed up, has enjoyed rising success. The writing is crisp and strives to interest and educate its audience without bogging down in extraneous detail or jargon. (I am glad to note that they have decided to be more open with copyright than they were initially. These days their essays have creative commons licences.) After launching a number of offshoots (The Conversation Africa, The Conversation France, The Conversation UK, and the The Conversation UK), Canada joins the crew.
From a Sept. 9, 2016 University of British Columbia (UBC) news release (received via email; Note: Links have been removed),
UBC journalism professors have been awarded approximately $200,000 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to support the launch of a national version of the globally successful non-profit academic journalism site, TheConversation.com.
Alfred Hermida and Mary Lynn Young, both former journalists, are working with the Melbourne-based media organization to develop The Conversation Canada with funding from SSHRC’s highly competitive Partnership Development Grant. This new national media outlet will unlock the expertise of the Canadian research sector and share it with the widest possible audience.
Since its 2011 launch in Australia, The Conversation has expanded to an increasingly global knowledge network, with editions in the UK [the UK is comprised of four countries, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England], the US, France and Africa [this is a continent with somewhere between 54 and 56 countries depending on who’s counting]. [Note: This pedantic segue will seem more relevant in a subsequent paragraph.] The Conversation has a monthly audience of 3.3 million unique visitors, with a reach of 35 million.
“Scholars at Canadian universities have a lot to contribute globally through The Conversation network,” said Alfred Hermida, director of the UBC School of Journalism and a former BBC journalist of 16 years. “News organizations around the country are under intense financial pressure and we believe Canadians, the university sector and the media can all benefit from a new national source of expert analysis.”
Written by 40,000 academics and researchers worldwide and edited by 90 experienced journalists, The Conversation offers informed, insightful and independent analysis and commentary, as well as breaking news from scholars and researchers. The site is published under Creative Commons licensing, which allows mainstream media outlets like The Washington Post, CNN, The Guardian, Macleans, ABC (Australia), BBC and others to re-publish its content.
“We are looking forward to the launch of the new Canadian service, which will be our sixth [?] country [emphasis mine] to launch,” said The Conversation’s editor-in-chief, Andrew Jaspan. “The Conversation’s independent, trusted content service will, I hope, play an important role in providing informed content to support better public debate and decision-making.”
There are 333 Canadian scholars currently registered with The Conversation’s global network, with Canada representing The Conversation’s fourth-largest readership. Currently, though, Canadian users mostly visit The Conversation’s U.S. edition as to date there is no Canadian site.
The Canadian team includes veteran science journalist Penny Park [emphasis mine] and Zoe Tennant who has a background in both journalism and academic research. The team is working on securing the support of Canada’s major universities to partner on the launch of an English-language version of The Conversation Canada.
They have joined forces with The Conversation France to facilitate the participation of Francophone scholars in Canada, and are working on a longer-term strategy to support the development of a French-language version of The Conversation Canada.
I’m mildly surprised to see Penny Park associated with this project since she seemed hesitant about blogs when I spoke to her in 2012. She was and is the executive director of the Science Media Centre of Canada. (I had been invited to join [remotely] a press conference for the Council of Canadian Academies’ report ‘The State of Science and Technology in Canada 2012’ being hosted by the Science Media Centre of Canada [SMCC] which refused to give me access. At the time she agreed to give me credentials [I think being credentialed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science worked in my favour] for the SMCC and I would have been the first blogger to achieve that status. In the end, I did get access to that one press conference but never did get credentialed by the SMCC.)