The top question we have been asked in emails is 'What should I write about?' and the answer is, we don't know. Since the contest covers 11 schools and all science disciplines we have no idea what will resonate with the audience. Whatever you write should have some popular interest - no one wins "American Idol" doing Gregorian chants, for example - but it's your own voice so you have to write what is interesting to you.
The second most frequently asked question is, why 11 schools? The answer is that we have a limited amount of people who can help. Scientific Blogging is the only science media company of this audience size with no employees. The researchers and book authors and journalists and everyone else who write here do it for fun and for outreach. Because it's not a job for anyone, we had to keep it small so we let US News&World Report narrow the list for us. As we continue to grow, we will have more volunteers who can read papers and narrow the list of finalists down - and we'll open it up to all schools. But for the first one it needed to stay manageable.
People have asked how long articles should be? It's hard to say but the most popular mass media articles are 400 words, yet those are probably not going to have enough substance in an audience like this. 1,000 words is usually a decent mix of substance and quality while not being an eyestrain.
Who can vote? Anyone. We will narrow down the list but once the finalists are determined, you can vote every day. Part of science communication is getting the masses to pay attention and the most prominent internet writers and bloggers work hard mobilizing the audience to read them. If you've heard of an internet writer you can be sure they worked hard to get there.
If you're interested in learning more about the competition, check out all the details here, or click on the red "CONTEST" button that can be found on the menu bar at the top of our page. And if you're planning to participate, remember all entries must be received by midnight Pacific time on October 15th, 2009.
If you aren't participating this time around, you can still check in on the entries as they begin to appear on the Contest Page. Feel free to leave comments for the authors, and then you can help select the winners once the finalists are announced and voting begins November 1st.