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News & Press: AAALetter

How Does the Conference Program Happen?

Monday, March 14, 2016   (0 Comments)
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Now that the searchable schedule for the 2016 AAAL Conference is available online, we would like to share with you the behind-the-scenes processes by which the conference has been scheduled. We hope that you will find this information to be informative and perhaps even a bit amusing!

First, the deadline for submitting proposals was August 19, 2015. The Strand Coordinators of the 18 strands were given access to the AllAcademic proposal submission and review system. In managing a team of over 300 total volunteer reviewers, each Strand Coordinator assigned two reviewers to evaluate each proposal. Some proposals were accepted by both reviewers while others were rejected by both reviewers. In other cases, the reviewers disagreed about the merits of a particular proposal, leading to a split decision. In the case of split reviews, the Strand Coordinators either served as a third reviewer or else they assigned another qualified reviewer to evaluate those proposals.

The Conference Team then looked at all the proposals that had been recommended for acceptance. We mapped the number of accepted papers, posters, roundtables, and colloquia against the slots on the program, as determined by time and space available at the venue. At that point we needed to make some tough decisions. Together, as a team, we read and discussed all of the proposals and recategorized several of them in order to maximize the number of acceptances so that a wide range of presenters could be listed on the program.

Next we began eliminating those accepted presentations whose authors had notified us that they could not attend the conference. Then we deleted the presentations by those authors who had not confirmed their willingness to present at the conference and/or had not registered for the conference by the given deadline. This process created space for a few more sessions to be scheduled.

At this time we were also communicating with individuals who had submitted more than one proposal as the first author. In those cases, in consultation with the proposal submitters, we determined which of their accepted proposals would be eliminated and for which one(s) they would be willing to alter the sequence of their authorship, based on the AAAL policy stated in the Call for Proposals.

Additionally, we worked with Sarah Berke and Jessica Atkinson in the AAAL office to go through the large number of accepted proposals where submitters had two different membership accounts as a result of two different email addresses and/or two different spellings of their names. Each of these duplications had to be resolved before the schedule could be finalized.

As presenters notified us of cancellations, we also revisited those proposals which were originally submitted as papers or colloquia but had been recategorized as either roundtable discussions or poster presentations. We developed a waiting list based on the original ratings, and when all of the tasks described above were completed and vacancies were created on the conference program, we began to schedule those proposals. This process is an ongoing one as space becomes available. Unfortunately it is not possible in advance to determine when a particular proposal might be recategorized and scheduled, since we cannot anticipate when we will be notified of cancellations. We are keeping a close eye (four, actually) on the waiting list!

The scheduling process also included grouping roundtable discussions and paper presentations thematically into groups. Specifically for roundtables, scheduling these discussions poses another interesting challenge. Some people submit proposals for a complete roundtable discussion with three presenters. Others submit a proposal as a single presenter to be placed in a particular roundtable discussion with two other presenters talking about a similar issue. Still other proposals were originally submitted as paper or colloquium presentations but were recategorized as roundtable discussions, as described above. Putting these roundtables together took considerable time and attention in order to link proposals topically and thematically, rather than simply linking them by strand. We feel that this process will lead to rich and fruitful discussions at each table.

Another interesting challenge to scheduling this year’s conference is that the TESOL Convention will be held in Baltimore, Maryland from April 4 to April 8. The Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) conference is being held in Houston, Texas from April 6 to April 9. And the American Educational Research Association (AERA) convention completely overlaps the AAAL Conference and will be held in Washington, DC. For these reasons we had to be particularly thoughtful in scheduling certain topics of presentations on certain days, in addition to working with presenters’ scheduling conflicts.

Finally we managed to schedule all of the accepted and invited colloquia, and the accepted papers, posters, and roundtable discussions. It has been like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube made of jello! However, we now have a conference program that we are extremely proud of! Having spent countless hours looking over titles and abstracts, we can honestly boast about the exciting program for the 2016 AAAL Conference. The wealth of intellect, talent, and concern for the field of applied linguistics that our valued AAAL members and presenters possess is evident in the proposal descriptions, which richly illustrate our conference theme: “Applied Linguistics Applied.” In addition, there will be numerous opportunities to engage in academic and practical discussions, participate in the many Professional Opportunities Sessions in the noon hours each day, see the latest offerings from a variety of publishers, and share with and learn from peers and respected colleagues. We have every hope that the conference program will be of great value to all participants, whether they are first-time attendees or veteran conference goers. And as an added bonus for those who will have just come through a blustery winter, the Florida sun will be an enjoyable change! We look forward to seeing you in Orlando!

— Tim Marquette, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
— Kathleen M. Bailey, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

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