At a celebratory party held in Melbourne on Friday, Founder and Editor Andrew Jaspan also announced The Conversation’s upcoming expansion to the United Kingdom.
All content published on The Conversation is authored by academics, making the site unique. La Trobe University has been an official partner of The Conversation since March 2012, and our most regular contributor, Dr Susan Lawler, has been writing for the site since the day of their launch, 24 March 2011.
‘Two years ago, when I was asked by this new organisation to write a short article that would be accessible to non-scientists, it was hard to imagine that The Conversation would soon become so well-known,’ says Dr Lawler.
The Conversation now attracts over 840,000 unique visitors per month, with 35% of this audience coming from overseas. Their audience exceeds that of Crikey and Business Spectator. The site has over 5000 authors, drawn from universities all around Australia as well as overseas.
‘In the beginning I had to explain to my superiors why writing for this online news site was not a waste of time,’ says Dr Lawler. ‘Now, the value is evident – The Conversation has become a key player in Australia’s media environment, helping to fill an appetite for trusted information and unlocking the knowledge of university experts so that the public can access it.’
Dr Lawler has written 39 articles for The Conversation in the two years of her involvement, racking up more than 38,000 hits on her articles alone.
‘Writing for The Conversation has been one of the most satisfying aspects of my busy academic career,’ says Dr Lawler. ‘It provides a unique opportunity for academics such as me to engage directly with the public.’
‘The instant feedback from readers and the stimulation that comes from being challenged by people with differing points of view is really valuable to my work, and essential if universities more broadly are to engage meaningfully with the public.’
Another of La Trobe’s contributors to the site is Professor Dennis Altman, Professorial Fellow in Human Security.
‘Although the articles are written by academics, The Conversation’s readership extends far beyond universities,’ says Professor Altman. ‘This makes it an extremely important vehicle for allowing researchers to communicate with the wider public.’
Andrew Jaspan says that The Conversation helps to fill the mainstream media’s appetite for quality information, with the site’s Creative Commons license allowing articles to be republished elsewhere in the media.
‘We believe that access to trusted information underpins a functional democracy, and so in that we think of The Conversation as a democracy project,’ says Mr Jaspan.
Here are a few of the most popular articles on The Conversation authored by La Trobe University academics:
- ‘Mud power: how bacteria can turn waste into electricity’, by Ashley Franks
- ‘Penny Wong, Joe Hockey and the dire state of political punditry’, by Dennis Altman
- ‘Azarenka, Tsonga and the sexism that chokes women’s tennis’, by Ramon Spaaij
- ‘Doing it for themselves: being an Independent Olympic Athlete’, by Emma Sherry
- ‘Pope Francis I’s murky past in Argentina’, by Andrew Self
- ‘Swisse Vitamins highlights the failure of industry self regulation’, by Ken Harvey
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