• Tasks and Responsibilities of a Program Chair

    by  • October 3, 2016 • Software • 2 Comments

    Beginning 2015, I was asked to serve as a program chair for the first time for the IEEE International Working Conference on Source Code Analysis and Manipulation (SCAM) 2016. As I haven’t done this before, I only had a vague idea which tasks and responsibilities come with it. So I started to ask friends and colleagues with PC chair experience as well as the PC chair of the previous year. Many thanks to Margaret-Anne Storey, David Lo, Chris Bird and my PC co-chair Gabriele Bavota! Over the period of serving as a PC chair, I wrote down every task I had to perform, and now want to share this list to ease the way for other new PC chairs, or even as a checklist/ reminder for experienced PC chairs. I am also currently preparing examples for the emails and other documents that have been created and will upload and link them over the course of the next weeks. So here it goes or download the checklist as PDF:

    1. Select qualified PC members to invite
      For your selection you can use the PC members of the previous years as a basis, but you should add a high enough number of new PC member with the right expertise. Aim at a balanced PC in respect of gender, location (Us, Asia, Africa, Europe..), junior and senior people etc.
    2. Send PC for approval
      Send this list to the general chairs for approval followed by sending it to the steering committee for approval. Make modifications if needed.
    3. Schedule all major deadlines.
      1. Deadline for submission (abstract and paper)
      2. Deadline for review and discussion phase
        Remember that some reviewers may be late. So plan a little bit of buffer time.
      3. Deadline for camera-ready version
      4. Deadline (internal) for sending to publisher
    4. Send invitation to PC
      Search for email addresses of PC members and invite them to the PC. Mention already in the email the workload to expect as well as the deadlines.
    5. Send PC invitation reminder
      After a while send a reminder to invited PC members who have not responded, and extend the invitation to further PC candidates if not enough accept.
    6. Find keynote speaker
      This might be optional, but if asked brainstorm about fitting keynote speakers, make a list and discuss the keynote speakers with general chair et al.
    7. Select and invite keynote speaker
      Have a backup speaker in case the invited cannot attend.
    8. Prepare a Call for Paper (CFP)
      The one of the previous years can serve as a draft. Here is the SCAM 2016 CFP for example
    9. Announce conference
      Work with publicity chair to make conference public. You might want to send an email to SEWORLD and also advertise the conference on other conferences. Use personal network. Twitter and/or blog about it.
    10. Prepare/configure submission system
      Configure for example EasyChair in the desired way.
    11. Watch submissions coming in
      Are people in need for a deadline extension? Do you want to grant this? If so, communicate this on website and to authors that have already submitted.
    12. Close submission website
    13. Send bidding email
      Send an email to the PC that explains them how to bid on papers. Don’t forget to include/calculate a minimum number of papers that the PC member should bid on.
    14. Perform desk rejections
      This might apply to too long submissions, or if only an abstract has been submitted. Also, some papers might not fit the topic or are sheer unreadable/of too low quality.
    15. Assign papers
      Assign papers to the PC members, while being aware of conflicts of interest. EasyChair can help with a first draft assignment which then can be reworked.
    16. Send assignment email
      Send email with the list of assigned papers to each PC member.
    17. Split papers, in case of two PC chairs
      This is optional. First understand the conflict of interests, and then you might split the papers among the PC chairs. For example, odd versus even numbers, except for conflicts. Then, each PC chair leads the discussion for the papers assigned. Obviously, PC chairs can discuss papers with each other, but this will help to give some accountability.
    18. Send review reminder
      Send a reminder to the PC members about their missing reviews. Close to the deadline you might want to send a second one – only to those that still have missing reviews (EasyChair can help with this).
    19. Email discussion start
      Let PC know that discussion phase has begun.
    20. Moderate the discussion phase
      During the discussion phase the PC chairs act as moderators. You will have to trigger discussions, and guide the reviewers to hopefully come to an agreement on the decision of the paper. A good way to start the discussion is to look at the positive elements of a work.
    21. Make decisions
      First tentative, ask for feedback, then final.
    22. Handle disagreement
      For a few papers, the reviewers might not come to an agreement, or you also might disagree with the reviewers’ assessment. Such cases are a bit tricky, because you must decide whether this paper will be accepted or rejected. In such situations, when I felt torn apart, an advice I got from a mentor of mine helped me. He said: “Remember that the community trusted in your abilities to make the right decision. That’s why they asked you to serve as program chair. So, take the feedback of the reviewers seriously, but also do not forget that the final decision is the decision of the program chair(s).”
    23. Send thank you email
      Send the PC a thank you email to appreciate their hard work.
    24. Send email decision
      Send an email to authors informing them about the decision, and in case of an acceptance about the next steps needed for the camera-ready version.
    25. Letter of PC Chair(s)
      Write a letter for the front of the proceedings.
    26. Create program
      Decide on presentation format (e.g., 20 min presentation, 10 min discussion, 3 presentation per session) and group papers with similar topics together. Incorporate needs of steering committee for meetings and time slots.
    27. Accepted papers to proceedings
      Send list of accepted papers and the letter of the PC chairs for proceeding creation.
    28. Select the Best Paper
      Ask PC for feedback and incorporate this into the decision.
    29. Select Best Reviewer
      Optional: To show gratitude for the work PC member do, it is nice to also select a few PC members that did outstanding work.
    30. Select and invite session chairs
      Keep the needed expertise of the session chairs in mind, and make sure they will attend the conference
    31. Create and print the awards
    32. Opening slides
      Prepare the slides that are used during the opening session. These might contain some information on number of submissions, acceptance rate.
    33. Select papers for journal extension
    34. Invite authors to journal extension
    35. Find reviewers for invited papers
      Think about the reviewers’ expertise. An option is to add a reviewer who already reviewed the paper before.

    Obviously, a few extra tasks are missing. Reminder emails, 1-1 conversations with PC, authors, steering committee, web or publicity chairs which you will have to handle on demand.

    Something general missing? Leave a comment. Also, leave a comment if you have some good strategies or tips for some of the tasks. I’ll update the list accordingly.

    Happy reusing!

    2 Responses to Tasks and Responsibilities of a Program Chair

    1. Menno Eelkema
      October 4, 2016 at 2:38 pm

      What about the front line of conferences; Session Chair responsibilities?
      1. Reading up on the speakers and their topics
      2. Introducing the session
      3. Introducing the speakers
      4. Preparing questions in case there are none from the audience
      5. Keeping time
      6. Letting the speaker know they’re running out of time without interrupting them
      7. Letting the speaker know they should stop without making them look bad
      8. Moderating the discussion

      • November 7, 2016 at 3:50 pm

        Thanks Menno! Yes, indeed. I will add those to the list. I think 6, 7 and 8 are the responsibilities of the session chairs, but of course it can’t hurt to help with them as well.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *