The Birthing of a Conference

As of this week I’m working with a series of incredibly smart, erudite individuals to set up and run a graduate student conference – I’m excited, but nervous! I want to quickly note what technology we hopefully will be using, and then note some of the immediate challenges standing before all of us, and invite any comments on how to overcome/run around them.

One Down?

First, I think that we may have found an online conferencing system that would really make life easy – the Public Knowledge Project provides a FOSS conference system that is really awesome. I’ve used their open Journal system when submitting a paper to a University of British Colombia undergraduate journal (Prolegomena) and it was a really slick system. I think that (for me at the time) the most awesome part of the system was that I could log in and see how far along the process my paper was. It kept me from harassing the journal editors, which I’m confident is a reasonably common problem with other methods of harvesting and selecting papers.

And Many to Go…

Below are some of the challenges that stand before us:

  1. How many papers should be selected? How hard is it to ‘weed’ strong from weak applications?
  2. We have the option of flying in a prominent speaker; who should it be, and how much time is generally needed for them to make themselves available?
  3. How do you actually construct a good call for papers? I’ve read hundreds of them, but never with attention to the specifics of what makes a good and what makes a bad CFP.
  4. How do you distribute the call? I’m aware of a few particularly prominent online forums, but what ‘traditional’ avenues exist/should be used?
  5. How long do you wait for papers to come in? I’m thinking at least 2-3 months, but I know that sometimes people only have a week or two. How long will it take to select the best papers? Should the call allow for people to submit already harmonized panels?
  6. Should a theme be generally cross-disciplinary, or largely focus on ‘hard’ philosophy?

These are just a few of the (non-technical) questions that we’re facing. There was a suggestion that the conference occur around January, but I think I’ve found a better time for it, that will give time to prepare for it and generate synthesis between another graduate conference that (traditionally) has a very low turnout.

I’m planning on recording any momentous shifts/developments surrounding this experience here, both so I have a reference point for later on in my career, and so that I can (hopefully) refer others who are interested in developing graduate conferences here to avoid the mistakes that we will inevitably make and benefit from what worked well. Wish us luck!