Your pleas have been heard!!! Here is a special announcement from the 2014 Program Committee as well as some answers to some of the more frequently asked questions about session proposals.
As the co-chairs of the 2014 Program Committee, we were asked to prepare a blog post before the session proposal due date. First: we need to let you know that the deadline has been extended to midnight, CDT, October 7! In pondering what we might write, it seemed that a promo piece asking people to submit sessions wouldn’t be all that useful (you know we want you to submit proposals, right?) so we decided to prepare a FAQ. In no particular order, here are some of the questions we’ve been fielding—and answers we’ve been giving!—as proposals have started to come in. Many kudos to René Mueller of the SAA staff for doing most of the heavy lifting on the writing; we’ve stolen a lot of her answers. If you have other questions that aren’t answered here, you can reach the three of us at email@example.com. –Jami (COSA), Rachel (NAGARA), and Arlene (SAA).
Are Student Paper and Poster Session proposals due October 7 as well?
We want you to have time to get settled in classes this fall! Student paper and poster sessions have a separate call for proposals that usually goes out in November, with a January due date. Watch all the normal outlets for more information.
I have a regular Poster Session that I want to submit. Will I be able to use my laptop to display information?
You could, but there are a few drawbacks. We can’t guarantee safety of unattended equipment, nor can we be sure there will be much in the way of outlets in the space. You might want to think about battery capacity for your device. Finally (and unfortunately) we won’t have Internet access in the conference space in 2014. (Yes, we’re very, very sad about that, too, but know that it’s a high priority for future meetings!) So if you were hoping to do a live web demonstration, it can’t happen unless you can set up something through your cell phone network. Be aware, however, that we can’t guarantee cell phone reception in the meeting space.
Do we have to have a full roster for our proposed Lightning Session?
Because part of the impetus for using the lightning session format is to make sure the most up-to-date information is part of the session, we like to give Lightning Session proposers some time to fill in a few blanks as events occur. But the Program Committee does need to receive enough information so that we can make sure the proposal gets fair consideration. We’d advise having at least the majority of your speakers in place for the proposal, and generally we ask that the roster be complete by the time the preliminary program has to be finalized later (ie, by February).
Does my Lightning Session have to have exactly 11 participants?
You can have fewer! If you were to have 8 or 9 presenters, for instance, you would have sufficient time for a good audience Q&A. But if you’re considering 6 or fewer presenters, you might want to look at some of the other session types or come up with an alternative format. (Think outside the box!) You’re welcome to propose a session type that isn’t included in the list, but please do describe in your proposal how it will work so that the Program Committee can understand it.
What exactly are the roles of the various parties in the session?
We try to leave that up to the session participants as much as possible, as every session can function a little differently. From an administrative point of view, the session chair will serve as the point of contact once the session is accepted. There will be a lot of communication among the Program Committee, the conference office, and the chair in the months between the Program Committee’s decision and the Annual Meeting. It’s also the chair’s responsibility to keep information flowing out to session participants. A speaker resources page will be posted online later as we re-develop material for it, but if you’d like to look at last year’s speaker resources page, it’s here: http://www2.archivists.org/2013/resources/speakers
I have an idea for a paper. Can I just submit that?
If you’re interested in doing a poster session, yes. But if you were thinking of a different kind of session, no. The Program Committee is not able to match up speakers to create a session. But that doesn’t mean you should give up! Consider contacting a CoSA or NAGARA component group or an SAA section or roundtable that might be interested in your topic, and see of they’d be willing to work with you to flesh out your idea into a full proposal. We’ve been seeing quite a bit of activity on the SAA section and roundtable discussion lists recently. You can find a listing of all the SAA sections and roundtables linked from this page: http://saa.archivists.org/Scripts/4Disapi.dll/4DCGI/committees/LeaderList.html.
Speaking of roundtables, sections, and other component groups, how do I get an endorsement?
Each component group (committee, board, working group, section, roundtable) has been asked to set a due date for when proposals must be turned into them for consideration for endorsement. Each group may endorse up to two sessions. Please note: No matter what that component group’s due date is (most likely October 11), your session proposal must be turned in separately to the Program Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org by October 7 to be considered for the program.
What’s the point of getting an endorsement?
Although an endorsement doesn’t guarantee that a session will be accepted, the Program Committee takes close note of endorsements. Program Committee members receive all program proposals in a packet and they rank them individually. The SAA staff then collates all the scores. When the committee meets in November, generally it will set cut-off scores so that all proposals above a certain ranking are accepted, all proposals below a certain ranking are declined (temporarily), and the proposals in the middle receive significant discussion. The endorsements are particularly helpful in two ways: 1) any proposal that falls below the cut-off line will be discussed if it has a group endorsement and 2) group endorsements help the committee make a decision when going through the majority of proposals that fall in the “middle.” In those discussions, an endorsement is seen as a definite push from the membership that the session is of high importance, and we respect and honor that accordingly. Of course, one of the committee’s key responsibilities is to make sure that the overall program is balanced in terms of topic area. That’s where the “science” of numbers yields a bit to the “art” of program development.
I like visiting Chicago in November. How do I get to be on the Program Committee?
You volunteer, of course. A call for volunteers goes out in mid-October of every year, typically with a deadline of mid-January. All volunteer forms are forwarded to the Vice President/President-Elect, who works with her Appointments Committee to review them and make the best possible matches for each appointed group. In the case of the Program Committee, she will consult with the incoming co-chairs as she considers appointments.
I’m very interested to know what the logic is in consistently extending the deadline for papers by a week a few days before the deadline. This has happened every year that I’ve been submitting proposals to SAA (which, granted, isn’t a huge sample size) and from leadership orientations I know this is something that is planned in advance. I’m sure there’s some reason this is being done, but I personally find it baffling, stressful and a little bit patronizing.
I hear you, Hillel. You’re right—for the past several years the Program Committee has extended the proposal deadline about a week past the original deadline. The rationale has varied, from unintentional conflict with a religious holiday to concern about having an adequate number of proposals to consider. I can assure you that there was no discussion of setting a false deadline – and certainly no intent to baffle, cause stress, or patronize anyone. This year, René and I actually recommended the extension because we’re getting an unusual number of questions about speaker participation, perhaps because the speaker pool is broadened when we have a three-way joint meeting.
Kathleen Roe and I have already had our first conference call with the 2015 Program Committee co-chairs (Lynn Eaton and Carl Van Ness, both of whom served on the Annual Meeting Task Force) regarding the many good ideas that came forward from the Task Force and the most recent discussion (on this blog, see “Top Ten Reasons”) about taking a very different approach to proposal development and deadlines in the future. I can’t promise anything at this point – but when the 2015 Call for Proposals goes out, I’d strongly suggest that you mark your calendar for the [original] deadline!
Thanks for the clarification, Nancy. I’m very glad that some consideration is being given to alternative models for proposals, and will most certainly take the 2015 deadline seriously!
In addition to Nancy’s excellent explanation, I’d like to add that the call for proposals was written earlier than I ever realized. The date ended up being a bit arbitrary based on our (co-chairs’) original plans to have the Program Committee F2F meeting in very early November. That meant the SAA office and the committee needed those weeks in between the September 30th deadline and the meeting to get all the behind the scenes work (collating, ranking, etc) done. When the committee convened at the conference in August, it became clear that we were no longer going to be able to have the F2F the first weekend in November due to member scheduling conflicts. It took a little while to confirm the later meeting date as a go. I’ll take personal responsibility here for not following up on a possible extension any earlier. Once we had the finalized meeting date set in late August, it occurred to me that perhaps we should be rewriting the due date. As a result of a few work/personal fires, it promptly slipped my mind and shouldn’t have. So the original due date of 9/30 was somewhat unavoidable at the time it was set, that the committee didn’t offer an extension until fairly close to that deadline, my fault, I could have and should have said something about that to my co-chairs and to the SAA office much earlier. (On the positive side, my recruitments are moving along. On the negative side: anybody want to buy a used Jetta? The pieces are all there, even if a bunch of them are currently in the trunk.)