We all have opinions — an almost infinite number. Having opinions is an arguable definition of being alive.
The problem for research-driven organizations that want to create wide impact isn’t that their researchers lack opinions. The problem for research-driven organizations that want to create wide impact is that they’re probably not giving their researchers incentives and modeling for expressing those opinions publicly in persuasive ways. If it feels risky and unmoored, that’s because it is.
Telling them to go on Twitter and start spouting off isn’t generally helpful in this regard. That’s because Twitter is 99% opinion and 1% argument — “argument” from the Middle English word for “process of reasoning,” via Old French from Latin argumentum, from arguere “make clear, prove, accuse.”
An argument both walks its audience through its reasoning and is intended to persuade its audience. An opinion is a sharpened distillation of your argument’s consequences with the goal of enhancing its persuasive power and moving your audience in a particular direction.
An opinion without a great argument is just heat without light. It’s nice to be warm; it’s nicer to be able to see.