Write for The Molecular Ecologist

We regularly get inquiries about writing for the blog, and in general we’ve handled these in a case-by-case, haphazard way. Starting in 2021, we’d like to formalize this a bit more. The goal for this is, first, transparency, and second, to give ourselves guidelines to help make sure we’re making our platform available to the full diversity of people working in our field. Writing for The Molecular Ecologist can be an excellent way to hone familiarity with current molecular ecology research, establish connections within the scientific community, and build a portfolio of science writing for a broader audience — and so we especially want to remove barriers for potential contributors whose racial, ethnic, sexual, or gender identities are underrepresented in science careers.

If you work in evolution, ecology, genetics, or genomics, and you’d like to try your hand at blogging with us, read on! 

Apply to become a regular contributor

Each year, we recruit new regular contributors to the blog. New recruits receive a stipend for committing to a certain frequency of posting in their first year on the site, and may continue on a voluntary basis after the first year. They are set up with editorial access to the blog’s WordPress backend, and join the other active contributors in a dedicated Slack, where we coordinate post content, scheduling, and other considerations. In their first year, they also commit to joining (roughly) monthly editorial meetings, where current contributors check in via video chat and discuss plans for (usually) the upcoming month on the site.

We usually post an ad for a new round of recruitment later in the fall semester (we aim for early November) with a submission deadline in early December, and decisions made before the winter holidays so that new contributors can start in early January. Applications typically entail a cover letter, a CV, and a writing sample. Applicants may want to consider the note on potential post topics below when selecting a writing sample. Please do not submit an application if there is not a currently open call for applicants on the blog.

Pitch a guest post

Starting in 2021, we are piloting a formal solicitation for guest posts, with small per-post stipends. Guest posts may be on any topic that may interest our readership (but see the next section for suggestions and guidelines). They will be reviewed by at least one regular contributor (most often the Editor) and will be posted with a brief author bio to identify them as guest posts and give full authorial credit.

To propose a guest post, email Editor Jeremy Yoder, with “TME guest post” in the subject line. You need not include a full draft of the proposed guest post in your pitch email, but you should give us enough information about what you propose to write to let us make a decision.

What we’re looking for in a post

The best way to figure out what will go over well as a guest post proposal or a writing sample for a contributor application is, of course, to read the blog. Very broadly, we carry posts about new discoveries in evolutionary and ecological genetics, and about the day to day experience of work in these fields. Some examples of types of posts we’ve run include

  • Paper recaps: These are short discussions of new scientific results, which aim to explain a technical paper, place it in context within the field, and provide critiques, if necessary. Length may vary as necessary, but posts of this sort work well at less than 1,000 words. We’ve got a brief guide to writing a paper recap post; or see examples here and here.
  • Mini reviews: These are what it says on the tin — short reviews of a particular topic within our field, possibly explaining a method or a group of related papers. They may be quite a bit longer than a paper recap, but if a mini review gets above 2,000 words you might want to think about pitching it as a series of posts rather than a single one. A classic example is K.E. Lotterhos on “triangulating” different sources of evidence to find loci under selection.
  • Book reviews: Read a book, write up what it’s about and what you thought of it. Length may be closer to a mini review, especially if you delve into the book’s broader context. Academic books can get pricey, and if you’ve got a title of particular interest in mind, we may consider picking up the purchase price in exchange for your review on the blog. There are lots of examples over the years.
  • How-to: Explain a method, either computational or laboratory, or even for work-life balance. If the method is computational, we’d prefer to have examples of code, and a link to a publicly available sample dataset that the code will run on. Examples: making Gantt charts; organizing spreadsheets; cleaning microbial reads out of your high-throughput sequencing data; applying for faculty jobs.
  • Interviews: Find someone interesting, ask them good questions, get interesting answers. These can work well as a series of diverse perspectives on a single topic; one-offs will be less likely to excite us. Examples: A. Murat Eren; Jane Lubchenco; Rosemary Grant.

Some things that we’re not likely to take an interest in include

  • Writing about your own work. It’s true that regular contributors will (and should) write about their own research and its results; but in general we’re not going to be interested in guest posts about the guest poster’s own paper. TME aims to provide community perspective on our field, not a platform for people to post “lay summaries” of their published papers — that’s good content for your professional website.
  • Sponsored content: We do not accept pitches for posts advertising commercial products or services, even those related to our fields of interest, nor do we accept proposals for link-sharing or other traffic-exchange purposes. We do not respond to inquiries of this sort, and we will report them as spam.