Part 5: abstract submissions, deadline
1 December 2018
Three months after we announced the call for papers, it’s D-Day, and the deadline for abstract submissions passed at midnight. I hold my breath as turn on the computer to log in and see how many submissions we have. Drat. The WiFi is playing up and I can’t get in! What an anti-climax.
I wake the editorial assistant (EA) and announce that we’re taking a walk around the block. EA is not impressed but grudgingly accedes. For once I am not trying to beat my wrist-bound ‘activity log’ (ugh) and EA can pee-christen every neighbour’s letterbox to his heart’s content. As we amble along I recite this morning’s mantra, ‘NBN is not a real person. Must not cuss at NBN. NBN is not a real person. Must not cuss at NBN.’ I soothe myself with the hopeful thought there will be plenty of great submissions.
Thirty minutes later, and I am dancing around the office, fist-pumping and yee-ha-ing. Imagine that: the submission counter says 64! I must tell someone. Anyone.
The doorbell rings and it’s the postie, thrusting his electronic doodad at me.
‘Need ya signature for delivery of a passport, luv.’
I look at the envelope. From this angle I can’t see a return address, and there’s no indication of the sender or what’s inside. How does the postie know it’s a passport? Never mind, I tell him we got 64 submissions.
‘Geez, is that good, mate?’
He might as well have said ‘Can’t be arsed,’ but I don’t care. We got 64 submissions and nothing is going to dampen my spirits today.
Reality is setting in. Upon closer inspection, it appears that there are two duplicate submissions and one submission has already been withdrawn. Still, we have 61 viable abstracts, ready for review. Should make for one of my favourite events with an excellently jam-packed conference program.
17 December 2018
The review panel is meeting by videoconference. One disadvantage of this platform is that people can see you close-up, wrinkles, frowns and all. Everyone is chirpy but I can see the fatigue in their faces. It’s been a long and busy year. We are all exhausted and still full to pussy’s bow with Stuff To Do before the obese white man in red drops a load of consumer junk atop our fake snow-covered jollity.
Reviewing is a tough gig. Not necessarily life-changing, but the review panel’s decisions tonight will affect everyone who submitted, directly and in a very personal way, and indirectly also a few hundred delegates and potentially even the reputation of the national editors conference.
We had two weeks to review all 61 submissions in our ‘spare time’, with most reviewers assessing around 18 abstracts each. Every submission is reviewed independently by two reviewers, scored against the agreed criteria, and comments and feedback written to assist in writing our response. To chair the review panel I have to review all submissions and moderate the discussion with the program’s execution in mind.
As a group, we are at great pains to ensure fairness and generosity to the authors of the submissions. At the same time, we know we’re taking a risk that the end product – a short oral, long oral, poster, symposium or panel presentation – will be all things to all conference delegates. Novel, appealing, interesting, thought-provoking, challenging, ethical, innovative, inspiring. Phew.
In the finish, we reject only three submissions, but several will need to be reworked and revised to ensure they are appropriately pitched for the streams and sessions we have in mind. Some people who asked for an oral presentation will be invited to give a poster instead. Others will have to fit their substantial work into short, 10-minute oral presentations. Yep, tough gig.
For me, the take-home message from the review panel meeting is that we have some exceptionally good abstracts, many good and very good ones, too, which will translate into an awesome program. Conference delegates will be spoilt for choice.
19 December 2018
We now have three standard responses to the abstract submissions: one for rejections, one for oral acceptances and another for poster acceptances. Having spent about 3 hours last night drafting the main text, it’s time to write the emails and start sending them out.
I bite the bullet and send the rejections first. I tell myself that at least there are only three. These are the toughest to send, because I know that the authors have taken time to consider their ideas before submitting. They are bound to be disappointed, and who likes disappointing anyone? (Okay, don’t answer that.)
The rest will have to wait until tomorrow, because paid work is not just calling, it’s screaming, ‘GET THE HELL BACK HERE AND EARN YOUR LIVING!’
20 December 2018
So much for earning a living, because I have just spent THE ENTIRE DAY editing feedback, drafting emails, cross-checking submission data and sending invitations to 57 abstract submitters. Yeeha!
Granted, they won’t all be happy, and some will have to decline because they are no longer able to attend the conference. Others will be offended that we haven’t offered them a lead spot. They’ll refuse the offer of a poster presentation and then regret it later, when they realise the value of exposure at a conference like this. Many will be delighted. We are edging ever closer to a well-rounded program.
And now, it’s wine-o’clock.
21 December 2018
There’s nothing quite like receiving a cross or whingy email in the morning. Oh, wait – there’s three. Must. Get. Coffee. First.
Knowing the folly I am about to commit, I read the emails while waiting for the kettle to boil.
‘How on earth am I supposed to fit my masterpiece presentation into 10 bloody minutes?!’ – it’s not a direct quote, but that’s the gist of it.
Where’s that coffee…
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