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The Ins and Outs of Proposing a Session for #ESA2021

ESA Water Cooler Chat ~ October 28, 2020

View the recording

We invite proposals for symposia, organized oral sessions and Inspire sessions for ESA’s 2021 Annual Meeting, August 1-6, 2021. The theme of the meeting is Vital Connections in Ecology.

Join leaders from ESA’s Program Committee — Sarah Anderson, Kiona Ogle, Ryan McEwan and Program Chair Sarah Emery — for an informal discussion on what makes a good proposal, and some tips for submitting your proposal with better chances of success. You can even submit questions ahead of time when you register!

Get familiar with the submission forms here

Although session proposals related to the meeting’s theme are encouraged, any timely and coherent subject of broad interest to ecologists will be considered. Proposals will be reviewed using criteria described in the proposal calls.


Sarah Emery, 2021 Program Chair
Kiona Ogle, 2020 Program Chair
Sarah Anderson, Meetings Committee
Ryan McEwan, 2019 Program Chair
Christi Nam, Director, Conventions and Meetings
Jennifer Riem, Meeting Program Associate

Summary of the Conversation 

ESA staff walked through all of the steps of a proposal submission showing screenshots of a symposium form as an example. Meetings Committee members gave advice on what makes a good submission using the submission guidelines as a reference. The slides from this chat are linked near the end of this page.

In addition to the submission guidelines, general advice from the committee included:

  • Most mistakes can be avoided by taking the time to carefully read and follow the proposal guidelines before beginning the submission and proofreading carefully during submission.
  • The session title should be clear, concise, interesting, clearly related to the session description, and not too long. Titles that are vague or very long are typical problems the committee sees.
  • The session description should be clear and well-written. It should align with the session title.
  • The session justification should be different than the session description. This field is seen only by peer reviewers and the committee.
  • The one sentence summary should be one sentence. It should clearly align with the session description and title.
  • The diversity description is required starting this year. The proposal should demonstrate a diverse set of speakers, organizers, and moderator with regard to gender, ethnicity and race, career stages, institutions, and backgrounds. It’s not necessary to include all of these elements, but proposal submitters are strongly encouraged to build as diverse of a speaker list as possible through careful consideration of who they could contact early during proposal development.
  • The broader impacts description is optional and is encouraged in cases where there are clear broader impacts.
  • The session should list specific speakers who have agreed to participate and include informative titles (not generic placeholder titles). Talk titles should clearly align with the session topic.
  • Avoid a list of speakers who are all or mostly from the same institution or general locale, or that are from a tight professional network (e.g., a PhD advisor and his/her past PhD students and post-docs).
  • Start contacting potential speakers early! It may take some time to hear back from people.
  • A strong symposium proposal will have a topic with broad appeal. Specialized topics would be a better fit for an organized oral session proposal.
  • Sometimes strong proposals are rejected because multiple proposals are received in the same year that focus the same topic.
  • Early career ecologists and students are encouraged to submit proposals. More senior proposal submitters are encouraged to consider recruiting an early career ecologist or student as the session moderator or co-organizer since these roles can be very important for networking.

Slides from the Chat

ESA Water Cooler Chat – Oct 28 (PowerPoint)

Links Shared During the Chat 

Meeting website

Call for symposium proposals

Call for organized oral session proposals

Call for Inspire session proposals

Submission website