Write about what you care about on the COMPASS blog


Academic researchers are practically glorified science writers. The further you move in your career, the less time you spend at the bench and the more time you spend in front of your computer writing grants, papers, and arguing with reviewer #3. We develop our technical writing skills as trainees, authoring manuscripts and applying for fellowships. While some enjoy grant writing, many are deterred from pursuing a career in academia based on the amount of writing the job requires. Even if you are someone who can feel a panic attack building at the thought of a career involving grant writing, you may enjoy writing about things you care about in an informal setting. If this is you (or you’re like me and love writing fellowship applications), you should pitch your article idea to the Committee for Postdocs and Students (COMPASS), and we can help you publish it on ASCB’s The Post. If we don’t think the article is a good fit, we can potentially help you find another place to publish.

Uhm, what’s COMPASS?

An excellent question. Our committee is dedicated to providing ASCB trainees with resources and experiences to help them grow as scientists (or whatever they want to bely). We organize programming for the ASCB conference focused on helping trainees identify career paths, navigate challenges during training, and generally be the best they can be. We also provide opportunities for science advocacy and outreach. For example, we offer outreach grants to ASCB members (priority given to student and postdoc members) who are planning outreach events to help increase public understanding of science. Just one of the many awesome things we do is to give trainees a voice. Members of COMPASS write articles for The Post on a weekly basis. These articles are meant to provide the trainees’ perspective on all aspects of science including career development, teaching, academic culture, data representation, scientific trends, and everything in between. Outside of controversial topics (determined on a case-by-case basis), you can write about anything that lights your fire. By doing this, you can fine-tune your writing skills by writing about something YOU are interested in. Still not convinced? Check out this article we wrote about science writing. I told you, we cover everything.

How can I pitch my idea?

If you are a current ASCB member and a trainee, you can send pitches to the email at the end of this article. We don’t want you to write a whole draft of an article before emailing us because if it is not a good fit you will have wasted your time. Instead, please send us a brief paragraph (no more than 150 words) describing what you want to write about, the audience you want to reach, and why you are the best person to write about this topic. For example, I recently wrote an article about the challenges and benefits of publishing negative data. A pitch for this article would look something like this:

“Publishing a story with negative data in a journal can be challenging due to the current stigma that a “good publication” means you have positive data. However, scientists produce more negative data than positive and making this data accessible could save others time and money. Finding venues to publish negative data could help graduate students earn a first author publication sooner, improving graduation rates. As a student, I want to publish some of my negative findings to benefit myself and the field but worry about the lack of currently published negative studies. In my article, I would like to discuss the challenges of publishing negative results and provide students resources for disseminating negative findings.”

Also, it’s important to make sure that what you are pitching has not already been discussed in another recent blog.

What happens once my pitch is accepted?

Once we have accepted your pitch, we will ask you to write the blog. Once we receive it we will share it with members of the communications subcommittee within COMPASS. After a week, we will send you back edits and you will have a week to incorporate the edits. The edited draft will be reviewed by editors for The Post, and once final edits are incorporated, your article will be posted on the ASCB website. Also, we encourage you to post links to your article on Twitter (and maybe even give COMPASS a shout out). If you really, really enjoy the process, then we are going to try to recruit you to COMPASS so you can do the process all over again!

If we do not accept your pitch, we are happy to suggest other outlets for your article and help you navigate how to pitch somewhere else.

If you are interested, please send your pitches to ascb.compass.communications@gmail.com.

About the Author:

Natalya Ortolano is a PhD candidate in Vivian Gama’s laboratory at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. The Gama lab seeks to identify the novel role of apoptotic proteins in stem cell maintenance and differentiation. Natalya’s project is focused on characterizing the function of an E3-ubiquitin ligase known as Cullin 9 in stem cell self-renewal and neural differentiation. Twitter: @NatOrtolano Email: nat.ortolano@gmail.com