Useful checklist of things to do (from a past student chair)

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Checklist for Planning and Running a student Session

Conference Handbook - Student Session Checklist

The following document was compiled by Donna Byron and copied from her student session archive . It provides a very useful set of suggestions for organizing student research workshops.

The outline below contains a checklist for activities occuring in each phase. You should probably check with your Exec and find out which items they want to have final approval over (it may be different than what is listed here). In general, you can do things as far ahead as you want, unless the chart indicates that you have to wait for something. Issues and decision points relating to some phases are on their own webpages (links are in the chart).

Getting Started:Things to do as soon as you're selected

  • Start a list (and keep it uptodate) of things you did and when, as well as any comments you might have about how they could be done differently/better -- this will come in very handy when you're writing things up later!
  • Set up a web site (Start by copying a previous year's site)
  • Make sure the main conference web site has a link to your web site and prominently advertises the student session
  • Make sure the ACL web site links to your web site
  • Decide on the format to be used (posters/presentations/both), the timeline and reviewing procedures. Click for a discussion of formats. Deadlines should line up with the main conference to the extent possible and should not fall on religious holidays.
  • Start thinking about sources of student funding. This is an ongoing process from now until the conference happens. Student funding comes from many sources and you need to be knowledgeable about it even if you're not managing it because students/potential authors will ask you questions. Work with the Exec and PC to decide whether there will be volunteer opportunities for students at the conference. Volunteers typically receive technical session registration fee waivers and 1-yr membership to ACL. They don't receive complimentary registration to tutorials and workshops; however, an attempt is made to assign volunteers who indicate interest in particular tutorials or workshops to those sessions as "monitors". Work with the Exec/Treasurer to see if travel grants will be available from the organization (like Walker grants at ACL events). There should be a person on the main conference planning committee responsible for soliciting corporate sponsors for the conference. Make sure funding student events and/or underwriting student travel are included in the categories of funding he/she is suggesting to people. Work with your faculty advisor (who will be the PI) to write and submit a grant proposal for government funding if desired (eg. NSF or European Commission).
  • Set up an opt-in email list for students to get news and communicate with each other about the session. NAACL/ANLP 2000 used Put a link on your site so people can enroll.
  • Make sure you are aware of any official policies of the organization regarding planning the student session. For example, the ACL Exec has adopted a policy that student papers should not be bound with the main conference papers.

Writing and Distributing the Call For Papers

The CFP should include information you've pinned down as definite, and should be vague on other things that are not yet determined. As a minimum, it should have an overview of the intent of the session, the intended topic areas, and submission instructions and deadlines. It should be created as a stand-alone document with all contact information fully specified (i.e. don't just point people to the web page for details).

  • If a joint conference, decide if there is separate review/submission
  • Decide a policy on joint submission to other conferences. Joint submission to student and main session should be prohibited based on the different intent of the sessions
  • Decide what restrictions you will place on student authors: i.e. all authors must be
    • (a) fulltime or not
    • (b) PhD only, Master's and PhD, all university students, any student
    • (c) pre-proposal, post-proposal
  • Decide whether you will ask for proof of student status with the submission
  • Determine which co-chair (or both) will receive submissions
  • Set up a mailid to receive communication if you don't want to use your own id
  • Double-check all templates: create .bst, .sty, and Word templates and sample papers. Test them and load them to web site. Make sure they keep author information hidden and use a double-spaced format for reviewers.
  • Decide whether to have a separate 'intent to submit' process. This helps you plan how many reviewers you need, and from which areas. A downside is that people who otherwise might submit a paper may not do it if they miss the deadline for submitting an intent, and if people submit an intent and not a paper it wastes your time.
  • The CFP must usually be vague about grant support for students, since you probably won't know about that yet when the CFP needs to go out.
  • Ask for files to be sent in postscript + fonts or Word. You don't want latex source.
  • Write the CFP, post to your web site in HTML and ascii format (an 'easy-print' version)
    • The CFP must be approved by the Conference program chair
    • Wait for Main conference CFP to be finished before finalizing yours. You can get topic areas and general information from it
  • Develop a list of categories or keywords for papers (the conference topic areas may suffice; and include an "other" category); ask authors to give one or more categories for their paper; the same list will be used when asking potential reviewers for their areas of interest
  • The ACL Business Manager (currently Priscilla Rasmussen) will send out the CFP and post it to the ACL website, sigs, and bboards. You should post to additional lists that you may know of (like Linguist).
  • After the call goes out, touch base with the person assigned to solicit corporate funding for the conference to make sure 'funding student events' is one of the categories of funding being suggested to potential sponsors.

Receiving and Reviewing papers

  • Start working on recruiting reviewers immediately after sending out CFP
    • The review committee as a whole needs to be somewhat balance industry/academia, geographic (i.e. by continent), areas of interest, student/non-student,gender,etc.
    • When asking reviewers for their interests, use the same list of categories/keywords that you asked authors to use for their papers; this will make grouping reviewers with papers much easier!
    • You have to make a guess at how many papers you'll get and make sure you have enough reviewers.
    • The review committee (especially non-student members) must be approved by the Exec.
    • How to get names of people to ask? People who did it for previous conferences, people who volunteered at the previous event, maybe it's possible to get a membership list from your organization, personal contacts.
  • Be prepared to handle alot of email traffic the week that paper submissions are due (not only submissions but you get alot of questions/requests for information).
  • Submitted papers come in
    • Make sure papers can be printed/viewed. In some cases one cochair can print a paper that the other can't.
    • Assign paper id numbers (if you didn't have a pre-submission process) and respond to authors to confirm that their paper was received and prints ok.
    • Assign reviewers to papers. Allow yourself 1-2 weeks for this, it's pretty tricky to get all the papers to a reviewer that works in the correct area. You can't depend on the keywords provided by the authors, you usually have to read the papers and assign your own keywords to them. How many papers can each reviewer handle? Probably not more than 4-5 per reviewer.
    • Must assign student and non-student reviewers to each paper.
  • Send papers to reviewers
    • Sanitize papers first if reviewing is blind.
    • The easiest way to distribute papers is to load them to a web site.
    • Send a note to the reviewers to make sure they were able to print/view their papers about 1 week after sending them the papers.
  • Send reminder notice to reviewers 1 week before reviews are due.
  • Receive and collate reviews. A spreadsheet is typically helpful.

Accepting Papers

  • Before deciding how many papers to accept, negotiate the page count allowed by the PC for student papers in the proceedings, since there will be a tradeoff -- the more papers accepted, the shorter the papers in the proceedings. 3 pages is the absolute minimum, try very hard to get more.
  • Decide whether to accept an alternate paper, in case the author of an accepted paper is unable to attend at the last minute.
  • Decide how to weigh the various reviewing categories, whether non-student reviews carry more weight, etc. Making acceptance decisions takes about 2 weeks.
  • Typically there are about 1/3 clear rejects and 1/3 clear accepts just from the numerical parts of the reviews. For the remainder, you have to read the reviews carefully, take the written comments into consideration, and read the papers if necessary.
  • One thing you may want to take into account is if the student is working at an institution where it may be difficult for him/her to get good feedback, i.e. because they don't have a strong CL program or the school has no money for students to travel to conferences.
  • Send acceptance/rejection notification to the designated contact authors * Sanitize reviews and email to authors (remove reviewer identifying information and any comments that were specifically addressed to the cochairs)
  • Decide which co-chair (or both) will receive final papers.
  • Update templates and model paper with the final format. Test templates to make sure Word and Latex styles come out the same. Format should probably be consistent with main conference format.
  • Post author instructions for final papers and copyright form

Miscellaneous stuff to work on after the accepted papers are chosen

  • Finalize the program and post on web site. Try to keep breaks lined up with other events. This needs to be done immediately when accepted papers are selected so that the registration brochure can go out.
  • Write the Call for Participation. The ACL business manager will send it out in electronic form and also in the hard-copy registration brochure. You may need to prepare it in slightly different formats for the two mailings.
  • Find out how much money is available for travel grants (corporate gifts or Walker fund), Decide on the criteria for awarding grants, exactly what categories of expenses the grant will cover, will registration fees be waived, etc. (Registration fees have generally been waived in the past for volunteers, and refunded as part of the grant for travel grant recipients.)
  • Announce availability of travel grants and post applications on the web site
  • Make sure international authors start working immediately on getting visitor visas to the country hosting the conference, and produce any supporting documents they need.
  • If you're running it as a separate 'workshop' event, make sure there will not be a charge. Make sure all versions of the registration brochure specify that the workshop is included when you pay for the main conference.

Recruiting/Assigning Panelists (if you use that format)

  • Contact people in same areas as papers. It's nice to get a mix of industry and academic people. You can do some preliminary work to get a list of potential panelists together, but don't contact people to ask them to be a panelist until the list of accepted papers is finalized and the final program is posted (because potential panelists need to know whether they have a conflict with the time).
  • How to get suggestions of people to ask? Look over the main conference program to find established researchers who are planning to attend the conference. Ask the NAACL officers and conference program committee. Ask your faculty advisor and thesis advisor for suggestions.
  • Assign panelists to papers. Two panelists per paper is sufficient, with approximately 1-2 papers per panelist. .
  • Decide whether to allow authors to submit additional information "for panelists' eyes only" (e.g., extended papers, links to websites, etc.) -- especially if proceeding versions of papers are short (e.g., 3 pages); decide on format for submission of this information, let authors and panelists know about it

Printing and binding final papers

  • Final versions of papers come in. Make sure the copy is legible and there's no formatting problems with the papers and they adhere to your formatting guidelines.
  • Make sure you get the signed copyright release form for all papers, send the copyright forms to the ACL office (ACL, 75 Paterson Street, Suite 9 New Brunswick, NJ 08901). It's ok for only the first author to sign, but preferable if all authors sign (according to Priscilla).
  • Make a table of contents and whatever indexes you want (index by author last name, for example) to send to the printer (they don't make them for you). Leave page numbers off.
  • Make sure at least one author of each paper has registered for the conference before sending the papers to the printer.
  • Write the preface to the student session to be included in the proceedings. This should thank everyone who contributed (faculty advisor, reviewers, panelists, etc.) and describe the reviewing process and the number of submitted and accepted papers.
  • Get the address of the company handling printing of the proceedings from PC
  • Resolve binding issue: will the student papers be bound with main conference papers? In a separate workshop proceedings? Some other way? The current ACL policy (as of 10/2000) is to bind them separately.
  • Send final versions of papers to printer. The printer can fix things like ink that is a little too light or papers printed on A4-size paper.
  • Send papers to the panelists (if you're using panelists), or make them available on a web site

Pre-conference preparation

  • Write a summary to present at the business meeting, find out what meetings you need to attend at the conference
  • Set up the social program, find out if you have money for the social program, try to get money contributed/allocated for social program
  • Send instructions to authors on preparing their presentations or posters
  • Send instructions to panelists (i.e. what is their committment, what do you want them to do)
  • Assign session chairs to introduce and time paper presentations. Make yourself some 'you have 5 minutes', etc. signs. It's important to show a sign at the half-way point.
  • Double-check with the local arrangements people that your room is reserved
  • Organize volunteers or recruit someone else to manage that (typically volunteers get registration waived)
  • Make feedback forms to take to the session
  • Decide how you will recruit reviewers for the next year, either by posting a signup sheet, circulating signup sheets at the sessions, etc.

Running the session

  • Plan a way to publicize the event during the conference. We put flyers on the registration table.
  • Post a sheet on the notice board for people to sign up to be reviewers for the next year.
  • Distribute/collect feedback forms
  • Take a headcount or make a list of audience members that attend the event. This is necessary for future planning, to determine whether the format was a success, and to include in post-mortem reports.
  • Make sure you have a pointer, blank slides, markers, and water for the speakers.Also, make sure you have an extra bulb for the overhead projector (it may be inside the projector). Make sure you know who to contact for support if you have technical difficulties.
  • Plan social activities, find a place to publicize social events Also, plan a way for students to contact each other for informal social activities. Maybe put a sign-up sheet on the notice board.
  • Make time for the students to have practice talks? The 1999 ACL student cochairs did this.
  • Present summary at the general business meeting.
  • Hold a student business meeting. Probably hold it on the next-to-last day so people have a chance to find out about it. Use it to discuss student involvement in ACL in general, and issues relating to student research at the conference, how they liked this year's format, etc.
  • Recruit new cochairs. Talk to people during breaks and at the student meeting, take down names to give to the NAACL exec.

Post-conference Fallout: Do ASAP after the event

  • Help students if they need help submitting expenses and getting reimbursements (if you had a grant)
  • Make a summary to send to granting agency. Wait until all reimbursements have been sent out.
  • Write up your lessons learned and summarize your feedback from the session. Do this immediately after the conference before you forget!
  • Propose cochairs for next year to Exec. They should be from different geographic areas if possible and different areas of CL.
  • Hand over documents relating to the session and spreadsheets on the submissions, acceptances and recommendations for funding to the ACL secretary.

Last modified August 9, 2000 by Donna Byron