Elevate Your Voice: Write an Op-Ed

Science Rising is mobilizing students, scientists, and advocates around the country to publish op-eds and letters to the editor in local media outlets ahead of the 2020 presidential elections. Local media can be a powerful tool for sharing your story, raising awareness, and making sure local candidates and elected officials are paying attention to the issues you care about.

As part of this effort, Science Rising is proud to partner with the National Science Policy Network (NSPN) and its 2020 Election Initiative. As part of the NSPN’s Advocacy Track for engagement, participating chapters will receive support on framing, editing, and promoting their op-eds.

There are two ways you can participate:

Write an op-ed highlighting the importance of science and technology in the upcoming elections

The goal of this effort is to highlight the need for candidates to discuss how they plan on leveraging advances in science and technology to address community issues, in particular those with equity and justice implications. For example, every city and state will see the impacts of climate change over the coming years, but we know that low-income communities and communities of color will be impacted the most by things like extreme heat, displacement from sea level rise, and longer wildfire seasons

One of Science Rising’s core values is that science should support equity and justice. We need to start making the case to the media, the public, and candidates for elected office that science can and should be a tool for reducing inequity and injustices in our society.

Step 1: Make your pitch before you write your op-ed

  • Do your research. Identify the local editorial page editor or opinion editor; they’re the best person to pitch your op-ed. Reach out to them through email or over the phone.
  • Keep it short! You pitch should be no more than a paragraph (shorter than the full op-ed!). The key points to emphasize are that you’re local and a community member and that your issue is important and relevant to readers’ lives.
  • If you have a scientific background or expertise, be sure to bring that up—but avoid jargon whenever possible.
  • Check the archives to see if other articles have been written on your topic and what views were taken. Differentiate yourself from what has already been published.
  • Follow some of the “Tips to Strengthen Your Pitch” to help you hone in on the key point you’re trying to communicate.
  • Follow up in a week if you haven’t heard back.

Step 2: Outline your letter or op-ed

  • Tell your story: Who are you, and why do you care about this issue? How does it affect you, your family, your community?
  • Introduce the problem: whether it’s climate change, chemicals in the air or drinking water, lack of access to healthy food—whatever it is, clearly and forcefully explain the problem.
  • End with a strong conclusion. Making an ask of a decision maker or local candidates, or some other call to action, is a powerful way to close your op-ed.
  • For further tips and recommendations, check out these resource guides for writing a letter to the editor or writing an op-ed.

Step 3: Filling in the details

  • Keep it local. If you can, highlight the local impacts that are at stake in the upcoming election. Use examples in your area or community whenever possible.
  • Be nonpartisan. Your op-ed or LTE can help educate the public and candidates about nonpartisan, science-based policy solutions. Avoid calling out candidates by party affiliation.

Step 4: Submit your op-ed and follow up

  • After you submit the op-ed wait a week and then follow up to find out if it has been accepted and will be published.
  • And please: tell us you submitted an op-ed so we can follow up to help highlight and promote your efforts. This form from the Union of Concerned Scientists makes it easy, or you can just email us directly at support@sciencerising.org!

Want help with your op-ed? Science Rising can provide some limited editing support. Email us at support@sciencerising.org for help.

Submit an op-ed to your campus newspaper about voting in the upcoming elections

There’s no such thing as an off-year in our democracy, and it’s important that everyone who is eligible is registered and informed about how to vote (absentee or in person). This is especially true of STEM undergraduate majors, who vote with less frequency than any other major.

Step 1: Make your pitch before you write your op-ed

  • Do your research. Identify the campus newspaper editor or opinion editor; they’re usually the best person to pitch your op-ed. Reach out through email or over the phone.
  • Keep it short! You pitch should be no more than a paragraph (shorter than the full op-ed!). The key points to emphasize are that you’re a community member, and that your issue is important and relevant to readers’ lives.
  • If you have a scientific background or expertise, be sure to bring that up—but avoid jargon whenever possible.
  • Check the archives to see if other articles have been written on your topic and what views were taken. Differentiate yourself from what has already been published.
  • Follow some of the “Tips to Strengthen Your Pitch” to help you hone in on the key point you’re trying to communicate.
  • Follow up in a week if you haven’t heard back.

Step 2: Outline your letter or op-ed

  • Tell your story: who are you, and why do you care about voting?
  • Introduce the problem: STEM undergraduate majors vote with less frequency than any other major (recent study).
  • End with a strong conclusion. Whether your ask is for individuals to register to vote, turn out to vote, or encourage their friends to vote, make sure your conclusion is clear and forceful.
  • For further tips and recommendations, check out these resource guides for writing a letter to the editor or writing an op-ed.

Step 3: Fill in the details:

  • Keep it local. If you can, highlight the local impacts that that are at stake in the upcoming election.
  • What are the upcoming deadlines for registering in your area? Include these to add urgency. Use trusted sources to get information about registering and voting. Rock the Vote has comprehensive information about registering, voting, and voting rights protections in every state. You can also use National Voter Registration Day (September 24, 2019) as a hook.
  • Be nonpartisan. Your op-ed or letter to the editor can help educate students and faculty on your campus about nonpartisan, science-based policy solutions. Avoid calling out candidates by party affiliation.
  • Here are some other great examples and prompts, developed with the Union of Concerned Scientists and 500 Women Scientists as part of their Get Out the Vote campaign in 2018.

Step 4: Review your newspaper’s requirements and submit

  • Follow-up: after you submit the op-ed wait a week and then follow up to find out if it has been accepted and will be printed.
  • And please: tell us you submitted an op-ed so we can follow up to help highlight and promote your efforts. This form from the Union of Concerned Scientists makes it easy, or you can just email us directly at support@sciencerising.org!

Want help with your op-ed? Science Rising can provide some limited editing support. Email us at support@sciencerising.org for help.