donderdag 9 december 2010

Call for papers - opportunity to lift a tip of the veil

Since the EuroSTAR 2011 call for papers/ abstracts will be open today (or very soon), I'm grabbing this opportunity to write a blog about the insights I had during the past year, being on the program committee for EuroSTAR 2010 (and also did the BlogSTAR pre-juring). I hope this will help you writing an abstract that had more chance of being chosen for the program. I won't give you guarantees but it might help a a bit :-)

I decided to read ALL abstracts that came in, because I wanted to make sure that abstracts that didn't score high by the reviewing committee were justly not in the 60%+ list and that when we were to make the program indeed the good stuff was in.
The call was done early. Even though I got a minor stream of abstracts during January (only 10), a bit bigger stream in February (up to 100 abstracts) and the bulk in the first week of March (closing date). With 433 abstracts in total that meant that I got more than 300 abstracts in March to read.
And although I had set a timetable and when I got tired I stopped and re-read the last 3 of that day in the next batch so that it was not affected by 'boredom/ tiredness'; I noticed that the January/ February batches got more attention than the March ones. (luckily there's also the reviewing committee who got a maximum of 2 times 30 abstracts a person).
Oh, note: I re-read all the 60% + abstracts the week before we made the program again, to make sure I was certain what was in there.
Lesson learned for me: Send in the abstract early and not on deadline-day; it might get a bit more attention and is still 'fresh' with regards to it's subject.

The theme was 'passion' last year. It inspired a lot of people to submit an abstract that had PASSION, LOVE etc. in the title (there were 21 titles alone that contained the word 'passion' and numerous (I didn't count) abstracts that had 'passion' in the text itself. Some abstract where re-used I thought and the writer had just put the words 'passion' in there randomly to make sure it had relation to the theme. It didn't help improve the quality to put it mildly.
Lesson learned for me: Don't force the theme in to your topic. If the topic is good it will speak for itself.
I mean: reading multiple texts with passion this, passion that... it takes the passion OUT of things instead of IN to things.

There apparently is a group of people who think they can send in an idea. It's just the idea, nothing more. This group - I got the feeling - thinks they'll have plenty of time to work the topic out once it has been chosen to get into the program. These people don't have a presentation outline, don't have specific information put in the abstract etc.
The reviewing is done with the help of a scoring card; this scoring card has categories for which a score is given for a certain aspect of an abstract. For EuroSTAR 2010 those were CONTENT, PRACTICALITY, INNOVATION and PASSION.
Let me explain a bit.
Content: How good is the content? Significant information? Is it believable? Credible and Convincing?
Practicality: Is the submission practical? Concrete? Feasible?
Innovation: Is this something new and exciting? Innovative? Revolutionary?
Passion: How passionate are you about this presentation? Is it inspiring? What is your gut feeling?
The CONTENT category has the most weight. If you only send in 'an idea' it WON'T score high in this area, although it might score high in the 'innovation' part, there are so many abstracts that score on ALL parts that yours won't be considered to have solid ground.
Lesson learned for me: Send in an abstract that is worked out, you should at least have a framework for the presentation, not only an idea and has a solid basis.
Note: The EuroSTAR 2011 committee might have different weighing factors or categories, so no guarantees...

Last year was extremely popular with 'Agile', it really was a buzz-word. There were some other topics too that were extremely popular. There were 24 titles that contained the word Agile and I didn't count the abstracts that had a different title but were about Agile. 8 had 'Scrum' in the title; also here, I didn't count the abstract that were about SCRUM but didn't have it in the title. And I'll will not even mention the amount of abstracts that were inspired by television series. On the other hand: cloud only had two. If you write an abstract that covers a hot topic you should REALLY make an abstract that is outstanding. The more abstracts there are of a certain topic, the smaller the percentage chance that it'll get chosen. You have more competition. A conference like EuroSTAR will only contain a certain number of tracks of a certain topic or scheme, so the more 'hot topic' your abstract is, the more competition you'll have for a spot on the program. The ones with scores above 90% will have more chance in that case than - an also good- abstract of 70%-80% range.
Oh... and when considering a FUN session; there's really little space for that...
(so if you get in with a fun session: consider yourself among the rare that did)

You can write a whole paragraph on how good YOU are, but the abstracts will be anonymized (due to fairness of course) by Qualtech before they go out to the reviewing committee. So it won't help your subject get in. Better to use that precious space on your topic...

I hope this gives you some handles to write your own (excellent) abstract.
Oh, and I would like to share this brilliant abstract that was written last year.
A (tongue in cheek) article by Peter Morgan, Nicemove, UK & Programme Committee Member, EuroSTAR 2010
Read, laugh and learn!

3 opmerkingen:

Nathalie zei

Oh, I would like to add one thing more.

There were some (luckily very few) abstracts that had spelling errors in them.
The reviewing people will 'read over' non-native English, but will not tolerate extensive errors in spelling and grammar.
It's easy to use a spelling checker and even a grammar checker. If you won't even bother to do that, well.. you can figure this one out I think...

rikard_edgren zei

As your committee colleague, I can only agree; a worked through abstract is needed.
Another lesson would be to not keep any secrets: if tips or techniques are essential, share them in the abstract.
Ideally, the whole message should be communicated in the abstract.

As for the process, do thorough research, so you don't just repeat old knowledge in an old context (this is why experience reports are popular).
And get the abstract reviewed by peers, they will see holes.

/Rikard

Nathalie zei

Thanks for the add-ons Rikard. They are very valuable for all future submitters I think!