Write-a-thon Guidelines

We are so excited that you’ll be joining us for ComSciCon-Atlanta! A big piece of this is the write-a-thon; we want you to leave having created something, and received feedback on it from your peers and expert science communicators. (And, hopefully, publishing it in the world!)


Though we anticipate that most submissions will be written work, we encourage you to submit a podcast segment, comic, or video if you are interested in workshopping non-written media. Prior to the conference, you will participate in peer-editing groups to discuss and edit your draft. Your group will then be assigned an expert panelist who will read and further critique your work during the conference.



The goal of the write-a-thon is for you to practice and receive guidance on the science communication skills you will learn during the workshop. The write-a-thon should help you push your own personal boundaries. Get out of your comfort zone! Try a new writing style, write about a topic you are interested in but know little about, talk to other attendees about your work and approach the panelists -- please don’t be shy! But most importantly, have fun!


Begin by picking a topic that interests you (perhaps something related to your own research, or perhaps not), then pick a target audience (perhaps a New York Times reader, or perhaps PhD students) and then, pick an angle -- something specific that turns your topic into an actual story.


Once you have your topic, think about how you can put a fresh spin on it. If you’re writing about a recent paper in a journal, chances are that the media is already all over it. So, it’s important to think of a new way to talk about it. Ask yourself: who are the characters? Is there an unexpected backstory behind the breakthrough? Why should your writing interest the reader? How does it affect their lives?


A typical piece should be about 600-800 words (2-3 double-spaced pages), and no more than 1000 words. If you are submitting a podcast or video, please keep your piece under 5 minutes. If you are submitting a comic or other graphic narrative, please limit to 5 pages.


At the top of your document, include the following:

  1. Your piece’s topic- include a few short phrases or keywords to help us put similar pieces together, i.e. biophysics of fly flight 
  2. Intended audience
  3. Desired publication outlet if you’re interested in publishing. If you plan to submit your piece to a magazine or other publication, consider the typical article length in that publication.


At the end of your piece, include a short (2-3 sentences) biography including your research interests and degree program.


For non-written media submissions, please include the above list as well as:

  1. The title
  2. The file type
  3. A link to, outline, or images of your work (i.e. a recording of a video or podcast, a visual or written outline or script, etc.)

How to Submit

Please create a Google Doc and share the link to atl@comscicon.org. Please save your document as LastName_FirstName_Title.


What to Write

You can write whatever you want (as long as it’s about science!) but we have compiled a list of prompts for you here to help with brainstorming:

  1. Write about a novel instrument that you or others in your field use to make measurements. What kind of measurements does it make, and why are they interesting? How does the machine work? How many machines like it are there in the world?
  2. Write about how a commonly held belief in your field of science has been challenged or overturned recently.
  3. Write about a recent or seminal discovery in your field or a related field.
  4. Interview and/or write about a person in your scientific community.
  5. Write a concise, compelling summary of a published paper on which you are an author.
  6. Put your audience in their shoes: Tell a story about what it’s like to do your lab or field work.
  7. Write about the intersection of science and society (e.g. funding issues, scientific literacy, science in politics).
  8. Write about anything else that is related to science!


A self-evaluation form aims to help you critique your own work and make revisions before receiving feedback from your peers and experts at ComSciCon-Atlanta.


Peer Editing Process

Attendees will receive additional information by email with instructions on how to begin the peer-editing process.



Email atl@comscicon.org with “Write-A-Thon Question” in the Subject line.


Happy #SciComm-ing!