Sparks of Change is an eLife collection where researchers share personal experiences that illustrate how research culture is or should be changing; we particularly welcome submissions from groups whose stories are less often told. We are currently looking to amplify the voices of neurodivergent scientists, and would like to invite them to contribute to our collection.
Pitching for Sparks of Change
We are looking for stories which centre on a specific moment that was defining for you as a neurodivergent individual navigating the academic world. For instance, it may describe:
- how a memorable step in your neurodivergent or neurodiversity journey influenced, or was influenced by, you being a scientist (e.g. when you first put a word or a diagnosis on your experiences, or adopted a new way to think about your neurodivergence);
- a time when you explored workplace disclosure and adjustments;
- deciding to re-think your approach to your work due to your neurodivergence;
- interactions with colleagues, supervisors or other researchers which have made a lasting impression;
- finding your community in science, and the impact that it had on you;
- how your neurodivergence intersected with the unique demands of research, such as career transitions, mobility, fieldwork, lab work or teaching;
- any moment of success, struggle, doubt or acceptance which stemmed from being a neurodivergent scientist.
Please note the above are simply examples; we are keen to receive pitches for stories that describe experiences not listed here too.
How to pitch your story
This call for pitches originally ran until the end of Monday, May 29, 2023. However, if you're feeling inspired and think you have an interesting story to share about this or any other topic related to the changing culture of research, you can still share your idea with us via our form. You can also check here to see if we have other calls for pitches active.
We recommend reading some published stories before submitting your 250-word pitch. If accepted, an editor will work closely with you to create a final article of approximately 1,000 words. For more details, please refer to our guidelines and FAQ below.
Another way to contribute
Stories are only one way to share perspectives that would benefit other neurodivergent scientists. We are therefore also inviting neurodivergent people to share strategies, tools and tips that they use or have designed to improve their experience as a neurodivergent researcher. You can learn more about this project here and if there is something that has helped you and that may help others, no matter small, you can share it there too so this list can grow.
Who we would like to hear from
We welcome pitches for all neurodivergent researchers with an interesting story to tell and the willingness to tell it, regardless of diagnosis status or form of neurodivergence. This includes, but is not limited to: researchers who are autistic, dyscalculic, dyspraxic, dyslexic, ADHDers or have ADHD, Tourette Syndrome or other neurodifferences. Please note you do not need to have a formal diagnosis to pitch your experience.
We are particularly keen to hear from individuals from groups who have historically been underdiagnosed and/or excluded from academic spaces (for instance, because of gender, race or ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, and the intersection of these and other identities). Please see our FAQ below for more information.
The Sparks of Change team would like to thank the members of our neurodiversity advisory group who have given feedback and supported this call for pitches. These members include: Brian Spurlock, Galina Limorenko, Mahmoud Elsherif, Sara Middleton and Sarah L Chellappa. Advisors are listed alphabetically by first name.
Do I need to have a formal diagnosis to pitch?
No; we are interested in hearing from neurodivergent people regardless of their diagnosis status or point of view. This includes those who are self-diagnosed, those who suspect or are currently questioning whether they may be neurodivergent, and those who have chosen not to pursue a formal diagnosis.
I’m not sure my experiences fall under the definition of “neurodiversity”. Can I pitch?
We recognise that neurodiversity and neurodivergence are evolving concepts which can encompass various types of neurological differences, as well as different viewpoints on one's own neurodivergence. As such, we will not use rigid definitions or specific frameworks while reviewing submissions. If you have an interesting story which centres on a specific event and touches on research culture, please pitch it.
Are neurodivergent people involved in this initiative?
Yes. In particular, this prompt and the associated form have been reviewed by the members of a small but diverse advisory group formed of neurodivergent people working in research (see “Our advisors” above). Further feedback is also welcome: please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org, if there is something you’d like to bring to our attention. Anonymous feedback may also be shared via this form.
How did you choose the terminology you’ve used in this content?
Language evolves and different people prefer different terms when referring to their own experiences of neurodiversity and neurodivergence. The language used here has been shaped by our advisors’ feedback; additional feedback on terminology is also welcome. When working on Sparks of Change content with neurodivergent contributors, we will respect individual language preferences as much as possible, and try to use inclusive language when referring to groups. This means that our content may include some terms that some people will not relate to themselves.
What is eLife’s Sparks of Change looking for in a pitch?
We’re looking for pitches of up to 250 words that will help us understand the story you want to share. Ideally, your pitch will give us a clear idea of how your story will start, unfold and end – rather than describe a general theme or topic. It should describe one or several moments (big or small, happening over short or long periods of time) which helped to create change in your life or for those around you. Please note that we cannot accept content that has been published elsewhere, or which overlaps greatly with already published articles. Guidelines are available here.
I think I have a good story, but I’m finding it hard to pitch. What can I do?
Reading one or two previous Sparks of Change articles may help you shape your pitch. You can also try talking to a friend about it, who might be able to give you some feedback. We make our selection based on the story the pitch describes, so don’t worry about the style, or trying to get it “perfect”. We also welcome different forms of pitches (e.g. bullet points, audio transcripts). Please get in touch if you have any issues or questions via email@example.com.
I’d love to submit a pitch, but I’m concerned I may find writing an article challenging. What support would I receive?
You do not need to have writing experience to be considered. If your pitch is selected, an experienced editor will work closely with you on your article, and support you through the process. This will include discussing together how to best approach writing, editing and publishing your story so that it is a positive and productive experience for you. While we have to take into account our publishing constraints, it’s important for us to hear about how we could enable you to work at your best.
Should I write a draft of the article I have in mind rather than pitch?
Submitting a complete draft of your article will not increase your chances of your story being accepted. Unless you find it more difficult and time-consuming to share your thoughts in 250 words or less, we strongly encourage you to submit a pitch via the form. However, if you already have a draft, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If I submit a pitch, when should I expect to receive a decision? If selected, when might my article be published?
All authors who submit a pitch can expect to receive a decision within one month of the deadline. For those pitches that are selected, one of our dedicated editors will agree a timeline for drafting, editing and publishing your story based on your availability and our publication schedule. Please note that due to our publishing schedule, it is likely to take several months before your article is published.
Can my article be published anonymously?
Unfortunately, at this time we cannot publish Sparks articles anonymously. We acknowledge that certain prospective writers may face professional and personal circumstances which would not allow them to safely attach their name to their story, and we strongly encourage them to put their well-being first.
I don’t have a personal story, but I believe I could contribute to this discussion in other ways.
We are open to considering other types of content centred around the topic of neurodiversity in academia. For example, we publish opinion pieces (such as this article on scientific activism), articles offering advice (such as this article on writing anti-racist tenure and promotion letters), and meta-research (such as this article on bias in funding decisions). If this is of interest, please get in touch at email@example.com with a short paragraph describing the article you’d like to submit.
Can I submit something that is not a pitch for an article? What about other media like comics or infographics?
We recognise that people may prefer to express themselves in different media, including to share personal stories. However, at this time, we are not able to accommodate non-written content in Sparks of Change.
I’m not neurodivergent, but I have experiences related to neurodiversity: can I pitch?
This specific call is for neurodivergent individuals. We are, however, also interested in hearing from neurotypical individuals who have relevant stories and experiences pertaining to neurodiversity and research culture for other types of articles. This could include academic parents of neurodivergent children, mentors and teachers of neurodivergent students, or those who research neurodiversity. Please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org with a short paragraph describing the article you’d like to submit.
We welcome comments, questions and feedback. Please annotate publicly on the article or contact us at sparks[at]elifesciences[dot]org.
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