Frequently Asked Questions
A Reminder: Some Categories Have Changed
In 2020, we dropped the “Online” category, as well as the long-standing “Large Newspaper” and “Small Newspaper” print categories in favor of two platform-independent categories: “Science Reporting ─ Large Outlet” and “Science Reporting ─ Small Outlet.” These categories accept both print and online text entries. We also added a “Science Reporting ─ In-Depth” category for print or online entries that exceed 5,000 words.
The “Magazine” category, formerly a print-only category, now accepts stories from both print magazines and from the websites of those magazines. Stories from online-only magazines also are included in this category.
In submitting your entry, you must provide word lengths for your stories so we can make sure the entry is properly categorized.
NOTE: While we allow you to submit links for stories that appeared online (and PDFs for those that appeared in print), we can’t stress too strongly that stories must be freely accessible to the screeners and judges. If an outlet has a pay wall or limited access (such as no more than five free stories per month), the entrant MUST provide password access for the story links or readable PDFs of the content. Failure to provide accessible content will result in disqualification. If you have any doubts about reliable access to your online stories, provide PDFs of the content instead.
Q. May I submit a mixed entry with both print and online stories?
A. Yes, for entries with multiple stories ─ two or three related, two or three unrelated, or a thematic series with up to three of the stories provided for judging ─ you may submit a mix of print PDFs and accessible online content if you wish.
Q. What are the requirements for PDFs?
A. The PDF can be up to 10MB in size and should show the outlet name, date of publication and author byline.
Q. How do you define “Large Outlet” and “Small Outlet”?
A. Large Outlets are those with combined print and online circulation of more than 150,000, largest single day. Online-only news outlets with 50 or more staff employees are included in this category.
Small Outlets are those with combined print and online circulation of less than 150,000, largest single day. Online-only news outlets with fewer than 50 staff employees are included in this category.
Small outlet collaborations with large-outlet partners should be entered in the Large Outlet category.
At their discretion, judges and AAAS staff may move entries between categories.
Q. What is considered the publication date now for a Magazine entry?
A. If submitted as a print PDF, the publication date will be the cover date of the print magazine. If submitted via an online link, it will be the date the story was first posted online. Select the publication date for online stories using the drop-down calendar on the entry form. To enter the month of publication for a print story, use the box provided for "additional publication details."
Q. How do you determine word counts for stories?
A. We want the word count for the text of each story. You can disregard photo captions, text within graphics, and breakout quotes within the story layout. Do include word counts for sidebars in the story total.
Q. Are entries involving health and medicine allowed?
A. There had been long-standing language in the contest rules barring “items exclusively concerning health or medical treatment.” Our FAQ has long noted that medical or health entries are acceptable if there is a strong science component to the work. The judging panels have honored more than a dozen such entries since 2015. Accordingly, we have dropped the language in the rules regarding medical stories but will continue to advise our screeners and judges that medical or health writing should have a strong science component to it. A competitive piece must be more than a look at how someone is coping with multiple sclerosis, for example, and whether the latest drug shows promise. It should deal in a substantial way with the science behind the drug discovery and the biological mechanisms being explored by researchers.
Q. If my work appears in a language other than English, must I include a translation with my entry?
A. Yes, a translation is mandatory.
Q. What if providing a translation is a true hardship?
A. We have only limited translation resources available but would like to encourage non-English entries. If providing a translation is a real hardship, submit the entry and we’ll consider, with the advice of our screeners, whether to arrange a translation for the judging phase of the contest. Early entry is essential for this consideration.
Q. For video entries, are English subtitles in the video acceptable?
A. Yes, although we prefer that you also provide the requested English-language transcript, particularly for pieces that exceed 20 minutes.
Q: I work for a state-funded news organization. Am I eligible?
A. The news outlet must be editorially independent. Questions about eligibility are decided by the awards administrator in consultation with the Managing Committee (an advisory panel of science journalists).
Q. Are public interest/investigative reports and series eligible?
A. Yes, we encourage entries that deal in a substantive way with underlying issues involving science and its role in society. In most cases, the new “Science Reporting – In-Depth” category will be the appropriate category for such entries.
Q. Are commentaries, opinion pieces or articles in advocacy publications eligible for the award?
Q. Are books eligible?
A. No. Books, book chapters, book excerpts and e-books are not eligible.
Q. Are stories written by public information officers or freelancers for university-funded research magazines or Web sites eligible for the awards?
A. No. The Managing Committee has determined that such publications are not eligible for the awards.
Q. What about pieces for science society or foundation-sponsored publications?
A. The Managing Committee generally has disallowed such entries, particularly in cases where editorial independence is in question (if, say, an officer of the foundation serves as editorial director of the publication).
Q. Are articles written by scientists eligible?
A. The awards are for professional journalists producing content aimed at a general audience. Scientist-authors who are not on staff at media outlets or who do not do freelance science writing as a full-time pursuit generally do not qualify for the contest. Questions about eligibility are decided by the awards administrator in consultation with the Managing Committee.
Q. How many parts constitute a “series” and why?
A. The Managing Committee has decided that no more than three parts of a series should be submitted for judging, enough for the judges to assess the body of work. The series may have more than three parts, however.
Q. I have three stories on a single topic that could constitute a series, but they are not formally designated as such. How do I submit?
A. You may enter them as one group of three related items, since they’re not officially a series. The judges will consider them as a whole.
Q. I’m allowed to submit three totally unrelated articles as a single entry. Why should I take that approach rather than submitting each one as a separate entry?
A. By submitting three unrelated items in a single entry, a reporter can demonstrate a breadth of work and a facility with disparate science subjects. Such entries have won the contest. But judges also have cautioned that a writer who enters three unrelated pieces must meet their expectations with each of the pieces. If one part of the entry is weaker than the others, it can hurt the entrant’s overall chances. If you have any doubts, it is probably best to enter your strongest pieces as individual entries.
Q. May I submit just two unrelated stories rather than three?
Q. Which category should wire-service reporters submit under?
A. Wire-service stories may be entered in the “Science Reporting – Large Outlet” category. The entrant may include either a PDF of the story as it appeared in a client newspaper or link to the story as it appeared on the wire service’s website.
Q. My name is not given as a byline on articles for my magazine. Is this a problem for entry?
A. Entries without a byline will be accepted if the entrant provides a written confirmation from a supervising editor regarding the entrant’s authorship of the submitted work. Submit the editor’s statement as a PDF (on the publication’s letterhead) in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. When and how are the winners announced?
Entries with Multiple Contributors
Q. Do you accept print pieces with joint bylines?
A. Yes, joint bylines are fine. Two or more authors on one story can win together.
Q. How many people can be included on an award entry?
A. We prefer no more than four names. We recognize that there may be many people involved in the production of a TV documentary, or a comprehensive online site. We ask that you enter only the names of those primarily responsible for the quality, clarity and originality of the content presented.
Children’s Science News
Q. Because of the timing of publications aimed at children, the stories often are not truly “news.” They often are features, or about the science related to something that was in the news. Do such stories qualify?
A. Science features based on recent news are acceptable entries, as are features based on less timely events and “cool” areas of science that are described in an interesting way that engages young minds.
Q. How do you define “children” in the case of the children’s award category?
A. Up to age 14. Please be specific regarding the age range you are targeting.