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Announcing Ideas Matter
A writing fellowship for biology.
Words are the best way to turn ideas to realities. Writing on the internet helped Dan Goodwin raise millions to launch a climate biotechnology nonprofit. One-off blogs have formed the ideological basis of startup companies. The Not Boring blog grew to 60,000 subscribers and then raised $8 million to launch a venture fund. An article in STAT (which Sharon Begley spent more than a year reporting) about an “Alzheimer’s cabal” questioned, and then shifted, the priorities of a research field.
Great stories have the power to change minds, build teams, and raise money. An ironclad argument, with an enticing hook and rigorous thesis, can form the basis of radical new companies. (The act of writing itself will help you live more curiously.) And yet, schools rarely teach the art of storytelling, or explain how to harness the power of the Internet to catalyze a career.
Last month, I co-launched a writing contest, Homeworld Ideas, with my friends at Homeworld Collective and Pillar VC. Our goal was to encourage more people to write on the Internet by offering cash incentives. (Submissions are open until October 15th.) Many people told us that the competition motivated them to put effort into writing when they hadn’t for a long time. This was encouraging, but we know we can do more.
Today, we’re launching Ideas Matter, an intensive, 8-week writing fellowship that helps current — and aspiring — science writers craft stories that resonate with a wider audience, mainly through blogs, essays, and newsletters. This program was again co-created with Pillar VC and Homeworld Collective.
Ideas Matter Fellows will write two edited pieces for inclusion in a published anthology. They will join a selective writing community and gain access to a pot of funds to hire professional editors and artists, or to take reporting trips. The fellowship is online, anyone is welcome to apply, and the application takes less than 10 minutes to complete. Our first cohort will be focused on writing about biology and will run from January 8th to March 1st, 2024.
Fellows will meet with expert writers and editors each week. Guests will teach the art of finding great ideas, explain how to convert “nebulous thoughts” into ironclad stories, and coach fellows on growing an audience. Our deepest gratitude goes to:
We’ll announce additional speakers in the coming weeks. Our focus on biology, at least for this first cohort, is deliberate.
This century will be transformed by humanity’s ability to understand, control, and harness biology for the climate, medicine, and manufacturing. In 2022, the U.S. bioeconomy was valued at $950 billion, or roughly 5% of GDP. As gene-editing and predictive models accelerate its growth, writing about biology has been — at times — shallow, overhyped, or misunderstood. We need to train an entire generation of biology writers who can make sense of this century of progress.
Our focus on biology won’t last forever, though. In future fellowships, we’ll work with writers in machine learning, climate, and other subfields. We are focusing on one field at a time because beautiful friendships emerge when a group of people with similar backgrounds, ideas and desires (“biology is amazing”) work toward a common goal (“become a better writer”). We also want every fellow to feel like they can comment on, and improve, the writing of every other fellow.
A handful of writing fellowships have emerged in recent years, but we’re not aware of any for science writing. Roots of Progress, however, has already proven that specialized writing fellowships are both possible and can be wildly popular — they received nearly 500 applications for 20 fellowship slots.
Internally, our team likes to say that this fellowship is an early experiment toward a sort of “Y Combinator for Writers.”
Can a bit of money, combined with lots of time and thoughtful community-building, foster an entire generation of writers who seed ideas, push scientific fields in new directions, or build the companies, non-profits, and research laboratories that will lead us into the future? We think so.
If you’re excited about this vision, please apply.
Thanks to Tony Kulesa, Madelyn Heart, Katie Okolita, Daniel Goodwin and Paul Reginato for making this possible.