Write-a-thon Guidelines

One of the central activities of ComSciCon is the write-a-thon, in which you will apply the communication skills you are learning to your own writing/science communication project.  To prepare for the write-a-thon, you will need to produce and submit a draft by Friday, May 20.  We anticipate that most of the submissions will be written work, but we encourage you to submit a podcast segment, comic, or video if you are interested in workshopping non-written media.


Before the conference, you will work 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. After the conference, ComSciCon organizers will help you to reach out to publication outlets if you are interested in publishing your work.   You can find past examples of published attendee writing here.


Timeline for Write-a-thon:

  • Friday, May 20: Written draft, podcast, or video due

  • Monday, May 23: Peer editing groups assigned

  • Friday, June 3: Pre-conference editorial notes within group due

  • Friday, June 10: Expert review at ComSciCon



The goal of the write-a-thon is for attendees to practice and receive guidance on the science communication skills they have been exposed to 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, approach the panelists, but most importantly have fun!


Start 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), then pick a frame (e.g. a reason why your writing should interest the reader, or how it could affect their lives).  A typical piece should be about 600-800 words (2-3 double-spaced pages), and definitely 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.  


You will receive a link to a Google Doc from us, into which you should paste your piece. In the header of your document, include your piece's topic (include a few short phrases to help us put similar pieces together, e.g. biophysics of fly flight), intended audience, and 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 submit a word doc including all of the above information about your topic and your biography, as well as the title and type of the file you will submit containing your non-written media piece.


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:


ComSciCon Suggested Write-a-thon Topics

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 your 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 litteracy, science in politics).

8. Write about anything else that is related to science!

Attendees will receive additional information by email with instructions on how to submit your piece and begin the peer editing process.