Editorial policy

Why does Synaps publish?

In a crowded world of information, Synaps is devoted to producing humane, innovative analysis. Our published work focuses on socioeconomic issues, but we also share methodological guidance based on our own experience of research and writing.

To avoid adding to our collective overload, we rely on a rigorous and continuously evolving system for research, writing, and editing. Firstly, we place a heavy emphasis on interview-based fieldwork and the lived experiences of our team and the communities with which they interact. Secondly, we strive for depth of analysis—to make meaning out of the wealth of information already out there. Finally, we adapt the length, style, and format of each publication to suit the topic at hand. Our editorial policy elaborates on this promise.

Why does Synaps publish?

Published writing represents a small but vital component of Synaps’ identity. As the most visible part of our work, publications are essential in our efforts to contribute to a more vibrant information landscape. We are therefore committed to contributions that do justice to our researchers, interlocutors, and supporters. We aim to reward those who take time to read our work.

At a methodological level, publishing shapes the research process itself in crucial ways. It motivates researchers to package their analysis in ways which resonate with a target audience, pushing authors to think harder about how they can serve the public at large. 

Our publications also help us consolidate our reputation and develop our distinctive voices at both the institutional and personal levels. This supports, in turn, our effort to address the public in other settings, such as seminars, roundtables, and public events. Last but not least, publications allow us to expand, evolve, and anticipate further lines of research.

On a broader level, Synaps’ publications are an experiment in new modes of participation in the information market, which is increasingly competitive and under-resourced. Our published output is rarely funded, which grants us editorial independence. We also strive to support a community of organizations, initiatives, and researchers who share in our goals (see our analysis of the information market).

How do we write?

Any Synaps publication emerges from months or even years of research. As a result, every publication is founded on far more fieldwork than meets the eye. Our writing process thus aims to distill an expansive body of information and understanding into substantive but digestible products.

Our writing employs storytelling techniques, designed to connect with our readers. Sometimes it is a story that has not yet been told; at others it may be an old story framed in a new, refreshing way. As in any narrative, the techniques we use aim to help readers make sense of the world around them, in response to critical questions they ask themselves. 

Our writing aspires to amplify the voices of the individuals and communities who feature in our research. As such, we rely heavily on accounts and quotations from those who offer insights into a given topic. We are committed to protecting their identities, and therefore citations are generally anonymous—unless they are public figures speaking on record.

Although Synaps researchers also draw upon extensive desk-based research, we keep academic and journalistic citations (including footnotes) to a minimum, in the service of a smoother reading experience. At the same time, we experiment with how best to acknowledge the authors and organizations whose work has informed our analysis—whether by weaving bibliographical references into the fabric of a publication or sharing them through our social media platforms.  

We also pay utmost attention to the visual presentation of our work. We employ do-it-yourself visual design as a matter of principle: Our researchers often collect their own material for illustration (photography, original drawings, maps, etc.), and craft their own titles and publications strategies.

Finally, our publications go through a rigorous editorial process, which we have perfected through years of experience. Achieving a balance between deep analysis, a warm voice, and stylistic flow requires strategies which we endeavor to share with our peers and supporters.

What do we publish?

We only publish work that makes us proud. Our written output currently incorporates the following formats:

  • Slow read . This format aims to provide a fulfilling, in-depth reading experience: Using storytelling techniques, we unpack a complex topic in an approximately 20-minute read, leaving the reader with a sense of having grasped both the question’s complexities and its human depth. These pieces are often the culmination of a long-term research project, and are designed for a wide public readership.
  • In short Our short-form analytical output offers a novel perspective on problems of immediate relevance to the public debate, in a five-minute read. While less comprehensive than slow-reads, these pieces nonetheless draw on an extensive body of ongoing research and in-house expertise. 
  • Tool kit. This category consists of an ever-growing body of methodological memos produced in response to our own practical needs. Here we tackle research methods, writing techniques, social media, time management, and so on. These tools are designed to provide support and inspiration to others in the knowledge sector, from writers and researchers to editors and project managers.
  • Cutting edge. Here we explore innovative approaches to producing and packaging knowledge. Experiments have included visualizing underused open source data, sharing economic analysis in narrative format, and a self-critical discussion of trends within the knowledge industry. 

We continuously reflect upon the forms in which we write and publish, which are tailored to particular topics and target audiences. Our published formats are thus part of a feedback loop, as we explore how different styles resonate with readers. 

Synaps cares less about how many people read our work than about who our readers are, why they read us, and what they take away from our writing.

Illustration credits: Obama healthcare speech draft via Wikipedia / public domain; pencil sharpener on DLPNG / unlicensed.