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A guide to convening a session at the EGU General Assembly – Part I

A guide to convening a session at the EGU General Assembly – Part I

Convening a session at a conference can seem daunting, especially if you are an early career research and a first-time convener. That’s why we’ve put together this two part series to outline the main steps of the process. With the call for sessions for the 2016 EGU General Assembly open until 18 September 2015, now is the perfect time to give it a go! The key ingredients are an idea for a session, a couple of co-conveners and a good session description.

How does it all work?

The EGU General Assembly is organised around the session programme, which consists of sessions representing all Programme Groups. (The organisation of sessions and the submission of abstracts are built around the session programme.

Programme Group (PG) chairs create a skeleton programme, based on the programme for previous General Assemblies, so that each PG has a few sessions in it to kick things off.

Then, the call for sessions opens, usually over the summer preceding the conference. This is the time when the scientific community is invited to suggest new sessions or modify skeleton programme sessions (you can propose a new title for a session, put someone forward to co-convene the session and/or make suggestions to improve the session description).

Once the call closes, the PG chairs evaluate the proposed sessions and decided if they should be included in the programme. They might also suggest modifications to skeleton sessions.

I’ve got an idea for a session, what do I do next?

Before submitting your session, you’ll need to make sure you have:

  • At least one session convener. If you’ve got some co-conveners on board already, make sure you consider gender diversity and invite (other) early career scientists to help you too! Additionally, select co-conveners from different countries and/or institutions. Please check with all conveners that they agree to co-convene the session.
  • A session title.
  • A session description. This isn’t mandatory at this stage, but useful for when the PGs evaluate whether your session should be included in the final programme.

You are able to amend the title and the description of the session, so you’ve got time to refine those at a later date.

Proposing a session

A screenshot of the convening a session tool on the EGU website. Click the image to englarge.

A screenshot of the convening a session tool on the EGU website. Click the image to englarge.

Once you’ve got all this in place, you are ready to submit your idea for a session! Simply head over to the provisional programme and select the PG which is most closely aligned to the subject of your session. This will display all the skeleton sessions (which you are welcome to recommend modifications for too) or click ‘Suggest a session here’ tab to submit your session idea.

You’ll be presented with screen which looks like the one above. Enter all your details and wait to hear back from the PG chair on their decision as to whether your session will go ahead.

My session may be of interest to more than one Programme Group, is this catered for?

A screenshot of the session proposal tool. Propose co-convened sessions by adding the request in the comments section.

A screenshot of the session proposal tool. Propose co-convened sessions by adding the request in the comments section. Click the image to englarge.

Co-convened sessions across disciplines are encouraged.

You can indicate that you’d like your session to be co-organised with another PG in the comments section of the submission tool. Make sure you indicate what PG you’d like to co-organise the session with and remember that the session needn’t be submitted to both groups, only the lead PG..

Your request for a cross PG collaboration will be evaluated by all relevant PG chairs and either accepted or rejected. In the case of acceptance, this session will be organised by all cooperation partners, but the leading PG chair will take primary responsibility for room bookings and time of the session.

I’d like to propose a PICO session, can I do that?

Once the call for sessions closes, during late September, session conveners have the option to change their session from a traditional oral and poster presentation session to a PICO (Presenting Interactive Content) session.

You’ll be able to do this using the ‘Session Programme Finalization’ tool. Use the edit pen, and indicate the PICO character there. PICO sessions will be shown as PICO sessions in the abstract submission, and authors cannot select an oral/poster preference as they will receive a PICO presentation regardless.

To learn more about the benefits of organising a PICO session, you can read this blog post we prepared in advance of the 2015 General Assembly.

A PICO spot at the EGU 2015 General Assembly. (Credit: EGU/Stephanie McClellan)

A PICO spot at the EGU 2015 General Assembly. (Credit: EGU/Stephanie McClellan)

I’ve proposed a session, what is the next step?

From when the call for sessions closes in mid-September, to mid-October, the Programme Committee and our conference organisers, Copernicus Meetings, do a lot of work behind the scenes to iron out any issues and finalise the conference programme.

As the programme is finalised, you’ll be notified once your session has been published on-line. You can then sit back and relax, at least for a little while! From mid-October until January, the call for abstracts is open. To generate interest in your session, you are encouraged to advertise it amongst your colleagues/collaborators and any potentially interested researchers within the field. If you are on social media platforms, we’d encourage you to promote your session this way too.

With the first steps of proposing a session covered, part II of this series we’ll take a look at what happens once the abstracts star rolling in. It will cover everything from the role of conveners in the process to allocate funds for travel support, to organisation of a session, including accepting/rejecting abstracts and planning the logistics of requesting a room and what happens during the conference. The post will also include tops tips from early career scientists who have been involved in the convening sessions in the past.

For more information on proposing and convening a session, take a look at the Programme Committee guidelines on the 2016 General Assembly website. The Tectonics and Structural Geology Division also has a nice step-by-step guide for conveners which contains lots of useful information. If you’ve been inspired to propose a session, follow this link to the call-for-sessions. If you needed a final incentive, as a thank you, the EGU invites all conveners for a reception at the end of the conference.

The European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2016 will take place in Vienna, Austria, from 17-22 April 2016 and will bring together geoscientists from all over the world to one meeting covering all disciplines of the Earth, planetary and space sciences.

Union-wide events at EGU 2015

Wondering what to expect at our General Assembly this year? Here are some of the highlights:

Great Debates (GDB)
This year we’re holding not one, not two, but four Great Debates! The topics covered this year are varied, from: The impact on global geoscience of accelerating Asian research, through to a debate about Open Access publishing, via discussing global freshwater use and water security and the avenues open to humanity when it comes to negotiating a new global climate change agreement. This year’s debates bring topical and controversial issues in Earth science to the fore. Experts from a variety of fields will discuss the problems and potential of the different topics before coming under fire as the discussion is opened up to the audience. Whether you are in Vienna or elsewhere, be sure to follow and join in the debates using #EGU15GDB on twitter.

The audince during a Great Debate at the General Assembly in 2014.

The audince during a Great Debate at the General Assembly in 2014.

Union Symposia and Lectures for a general geoscience audience (US, GL)
This year, the Assembly has a theme: A Voyage through Scales, which is featured in three of the five Union Symposia at EGU 2015. The theme is also being celebrated via two Lectures for a general geoscience audience (GL) on water in the terrestrial system and a detailed look at the continental crust. Increasing resilience to geophysical hazards such as earthquakes and tsunamis has become a key topic of research and so Union Symposia 3 is dedicated to this are of research. The final Union Symposia is devoted to celebrating the International Year of Soils, 2015. Finally, there’s the EGU Awards Ceremony – set to celebrate excellent research and achievement in the Earth, planetary and space sciences.

Educational & Outreach Symposia (EOS)
Educational and Outreach Symposia are sessions dedicated to all things education and outreach, and include the Geosciences Information for Teachers (GIFT) workshop, a long-running event for high school teachers that helps shorten the time between discovery and textbook.

Medal and Keynote Lectures (ML, KL)
There will be six Keynote Lectures across the geoscience as well as a grand total of 27 Medal Lectures this year!

Rob van der Voo is awarded the Petrus Peregrinus Medal at the 2014 General Assembly.

Rob van der Voo is awarded the Petrus Peregrinus Medal at the 2014 General Assembly.

Townhall Meetings (TM)
Townhall Meetings allow participants to take part in a lot of open discussion. This year’s meetings cover a huge variety of topics, from a panel discussion on scientific discourse in a digital era to a networking event for past and present Marie Curie Fellows and an international effort to save our science legacy.

GeoCinema (GC)
You can take a break from the conference buzz and enjoy an Earth science film in GeoCinema. The side event features a nearly continuous schedule of documentaries, clips and full length features, and will also showcase the finalists from the Communicate Your Science Video Competition during the breaks.

Meet EGU (EGU)
Meet EGU does exactly what it says on the tin – these sessions are a great opportunity to get to know your division president, put faces to names and find out what’s going on in the Union.

Need to put a face to the name? Just head to the EGU booth!

Need to put a face to the name? Just head to the EGU booth!

Short Courses (SC)
There are 50 Short Courses at the General Assembly this year! These give you an opportunity to top up your skills, be they in science communication, interview preparation, or more technical topics. We’ve complied a short list of highlights to get you started here.

Splinter Meetings (SPM)
Like Townhall Meetings, Splinter Meetings are organised by participants, but they are typically smaller and can be either public or by invitation only.

The EGU General Assembly is taking place in Vienna, Austria from 12 to 17 April. Check out the full session programme on the General Assembly website.