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EXPLORE NORTHEASTERN

Beyond the Ivory Tower: A Workshop for Scholars on Writing for the Public


Coronavirus advisory: Our hope is that this workshop can take place in-person, in Boston, October 2nd and October 3rd, from roughly 8am-6pm EDT. However, as a result of the pandemic, we reconstituted our May 2020 workshop as a virtual offering. If this fall does not see a drastic reduction in limits to travel and social interaction, we will conduct this workshop virtually as well. All selected attendees will receive a $1,750 honorarium, regardless of whether the workshop is virtual or in-person.


This two-day writing workshop, funded by The John Templeton Foundation, is for natural scientists, social scientists, and philosophers looking to communicate their ideas to the public via articles and essays in major media outlets. The workshop is designed to benefit scholars with a range of experience writing for popular audiences.

Led by The New York Times editor James Ryerson, who has two decades of experience working with and editing academics, the workshop will focus on:

  • how to conceptually frame scholarly work for a wider audience;
  • how to structure the writing of such pieces;
  • and how to most effectively “pitch” editors at magazines and newspapers.

In a small collaborative setting (approximately 12 participants), attendees will listen to short lectures, engage in discussion, and work on writing and editing exercises, both in groups and directly with Ryerson.

The workshop will be conducted with the assistance of two scientists, David DeSteno and Lisa Feldman Barrett, who have extensive experience writing about their research in books and articles for the public. During the workshop, Dr. Barrett & Dr. DeSteno will provide insights from their experiences as scholars writing for the general public.

Attendees will leave the workshop with an improved understanding of the editorial process and better skills for popular writing, as well as one piece ready for submission to a major media outlet.

The workshop will take place at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts from October 2-3, 2020.

Attendees will bring with them one draft of a piece (approx. 800-1200 words) they might hope to publish.

All attendees will receive a $1,750 honorarium to cover workshop expenses.

Applications will consist of a portfolio of:

  1. Three short descriptions of pieces the applicant might like to write (no more than a paragraph each). Successful applicants typically submit proposals addressing what the Templeton Foundation describes as “Science & The Big Questions” or similar topics (as opposed to, say, narrower issues of domestic politics or public policy). 
  2. A brief writing sample, which can be a stand alone piece or a passage from a longer work, and of an academic or popular nature (no longer than 1,500 words)
  3. A CV

Applicants will be selected based on each portfolio’s potential to interest non-scholarly readers. Applicants should already have received their PhD by the time of their applications, and be at least post-docs, or beyond.

To indicate your interest in learning about future workshops, and other resources and opportunities, please sign up here.

Applications are due by Sunday, June 14th, 2020. Materials can be submitted here.

For questions, please contact Joseph Fridman j.fridman@northeastern.edu.

Applicants may also be interested in listening to the Line Edit podcast, supported by the Templeton Foundation, produced by Joseph Fridman, and hosted by James Ryerson.