What Is Undark Looking For?
Undark runs a steady mix of 1000- to 2000-word reported features, book reviews and excerpts, op-eds, short interviews, and a dozen or so long-form narratives each year. All stories are vigorously edited and fact-checked, and a sophisticated handling of science and technical detail for a general audience is paramount — though we are not interested in stories that simply cover science for its own sake. Social context is everything, and all prospective contributors are encouraged to scan the stories in our various silos to get a better sense of the type of material we are after. Audio and video journalists should visit our Podcast and Multimedia archives.
We are primarily on the lookout for narratives that, like our namesake, illuminate instances where science intersects in complicated ways (that is, both beneficially and detrimentally) with people’s everyday lives. If those narratives involve disenfranchised or under-covered populations, so much the better. The political and economic tensions that shape human societies often hinge on scientific and technological debates — vaccines, genetic engineering, climate change, agro-chemicals, renewable energy, AI — and those debates are frequently animated by cross-cutting values and interests. As such, Undark seeks stories that shine a light on these complex and fractious places where science collides with politics, economics, and culture, and where differing world views compete for resources and influence. This can entail everything from on-the-ground medicine to public health policy writ large, and from pure bench research to applied technology.
The culture of science itself is also of interest. This would include the influence of industry and/or money on research in general, as well as stories that expose bias, harassment, or conflicts of interest in labs, in the field, in academic/scientific settings and publishing, and elsewhere.
Journalists with multimedia ideas (video, audio, interactive graphics) and the skills to produce them are encouraged to bring them to Undark, as are reporters with solid investigative ideas.
Environmental and climate stories are by far the most common pitches we receive and while we very much welcome them, the odds of success for proposals in these areas are commensurately lower. Similarly, while many stories require some measure of historical contextualizing, we prefer our narratives to be rooted in people and circumstances in the here-and-now. As such, purely historical yarns, told for their own sake, are rarely accepted. First-person narratives outside the op-ed silo, while sometimes considered by Undark, are also a tough sell. If your presence in the story is not essential to its telling, best to leave yourself out of it altogether.
Please bear in mind that Undark is able to accept only a tiny fraction of the many worthy pitches that come our way, but we appreciate your interest and encourage you to keep trying.
Submit your ideas here.