Pitch BrainFacts.org - Tell us a story

BrainFacts.org does more than communicate science. It tells the story of scientific discoveries, the people behind them, and how it relates to our everyday lives. Knowing about the brain's inner workings helps paint a better picture of the human experience that explores the universe between our ears. We’re looking for freelance science writers, journalists, and multimedia creators with a strong portfolio in science communication to pitch us story ideas about the brain and nervous system. Here's a list of the thematic topics we're currently interested in, but we're open to all neuro-related pitches at any time.

We pay a flat rate for assignments based on roughly a dollar (USD) per word. The fee per assignment depends on experience as demonstrated by your published bylines (your clips), format, anticipated word count, and the timeline for completion.

What We Want

We assign long (1000-1200 words), medium (700-900 words), and short-form (500-800 words) written and multimedia stories. We do consider profiles of experts in neuroscience if you weave the science throughout the story. Commentaries are accepted by invitation only. To get a sense of our style, we recommend reading our recent content.  

What We Don't Want

We avoid unnecessary technical jargon to explain scientific concepts clearly and concisely with a narrative in mind. If you’ve already published your story elsewhere, we cannot publish it on our website. We are looking for original work. We do not publish medical advice, blog posts, essays, book or film reviews. 

What Makes A BrainFacts.org Story

We typically explore a common question about the brain. Each story should answer this question: So What? In other words, why does the story matter? Say you want to write about “fear and the brain.” At this point, it’s a topic, not a story, and there’s no reason why it needs to be told. Get a little more specific. Maybe it’s about how the brain processes fear. That’s better but still lacks the “so what.” Why should the reader care? Think about everyday human experiences associated with fear. Maybe “why do we get performance anxiety?” or “why are humans often afraid of insects?” Specifying your idea and bringing it into the real world helps readers understand why they should care about how the brain processes fear. Stories that explore answers to questions like these are the ones our audience gravitates toward.

Our Audience

We publish stories that resonate with a lay, non-scientific audience. Our readers are curious about the brain, how it works, and what it does, but, most importantly, they are not scientists.  Our core audience is adults, ages 18-35, with an 8th-10th grade English reading level.

What We’re Looking For In A Pitch

Be concise, use examples, and reference any related stories or multimedia. We’re looking for a lede, nut graph, and the sources you plan to interview so we can quickly gauge the plot and the ‘so-what’ factor for our audience. You’ll be asked the following on our pitch form, so keep these questions in mind:

• What is your story in one sentence? (What’s the skinny? Give us the elevator pitch.)
• What’s the story format and proposed length?
• What’s the narrative arc?
• Why do you think your pitch would be suitable for BrainFacts.org and our audience?

You can submit your story idea to our pitch form. Please use the pitch form even if you have one of our editors’ contact information. While emails can get lost in the mix of our inboxes, the pitch form tracks all our pitches so we can easily review your story. Submitting a pitch does not guarantee acceptance; all pitches are subject to review by our editors.

Pitching A Multimedia Story

We accept different kinds of multimedia stories, including podcasts, infographics, and animations. If you are submitting a multimedia pitch, please note it specifically on the pitch form. Our animations appear on our website and YouTube channel. The podcasts are featured on the site and our SoundCloud channel. Please include links to your previous multimedia work on the pitch form. Please note that we cannot create the multimedia in-house for ideas you propose.

Once we accept your pitch, the process is similar to our workflow for editing and publication production below.

If Your Pitch Is Accepted

If we accepted your pitch, we will reach out to you for your W-8 or W-9 IRS form to begin contracting procedures. BrainFacts.org is published by the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). The writer will receive SfN’s contract for review and signature. You will also receive an assignment letter with details on deadline, word count, fee and invoicing.

Your assignment will require a brief outline before submitting the first draft. The outline gives us a sense of the direction you plan to develop the story. The outline can be a short, bulleted list demonstrating your potential lede and nut graph, at least two sources you plan to reach out to for quotes, and any studies you'll reference. We can also have a quick chat before you begin the outline to offer some guidance.

Your draft will go through at least two rounds of edits with one of our editors. After the editing process, our team will send quotes – both direct and indirect – to your sources within the context they are quoted. Feature stories receive additional scientific review after top edit. After we receive your final draft, you’ll be able to invoice for the piece.

The drafts should include contact information for everyone interviewed and references used for the assignment, including hyperlinks to external sources. We use AP Style with APA style for references. We do not use footnotes or endnotes.

Using Expert Sources

We expect you to interview at least two expert sources for your story and seek a diverse range of sources. Diversity in source gender, age, race, ethnicity, nationality, and geographic location, etc., enriches your storytelling, not to mention it’s a hallmark of good reporting.

During the interviews, make sure the experts know that their words will reach readers who don’t have a scientific background. Have them explain concepts and ideas to you as though they were speaking to a curious layperson. It’s great if you’re already familiar with the terms but keep our audience in mind when you’re interviewing and drafting.

Think of your expert sources as characters in the story with personal interests and motivations. For example, why did your expert start studying this particular subject or field, what are they hoping to learn, what surprised them by the results of their study – asking these kinds of questions and incorporating answers will give your story a stronger narrative. If your article focuses on the findings from one lab, try using expert(s) from that lab as the main character in the story. Often our best shorter articles begin by focusing on the work of one lab, pulling out to provide context to the reader, and then jumping back to use the expert from the lab as the guiding force throughout the story.

If Your Pitch Is Not Accepted

Re-pitching is determined on a case-by-case basis. Someone from our team will reach out if we can accept the revised pitch later. Re-pitching does not guarantee acceptance.

New To Science Writing?

Pitches we accept usually come from writers who have clips in various science, technology, medical, and health publications or public-facing websites for lay audiences. If you are new to science writing, check out the following resources to get started in the field:

The Craft of Science Writing: Selections from The Open Notebook
Being a Science Journalist – Resource from the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT