News & Publications



Demystifying the Fall Research Conference Selection Process

March 28, 2019 04:39 PM

By Tristanne Staudt, APPAM Deputy Executive Director, Operations 

Education is a big deal here at APPAM.  Not only do we seek to advance education in public policy, but we also want to educate the general public about the important research our members are doing and how that translates into impacts in policy for the general public.  The most prominent way that we do this is by hosting conferences and events to serve as platforms for sharing relevant research.  Our conferences range from small, student-focused regional conferences to our annual Fall Research Conference which typically attracts over 2,500 attendees representing a variety of policy areas, from education, to housing, to health, to national security. 

Some might find submitting research to our Fall Conference to be intimidating but here are some facts to help you break it down.  Each year, the conference is chaired by APPAM’s President-Elect who leads the charge in establishing a theme for the event as well as selecting the Program Committee,  the team of reviewers that gets to pore  through the 2,200+ submissions we receive each year.   These reviewers are experts in their fields and come from a variety of backgrounds including academia, think tanks, research firms, government and the private sector.  They combine their experiences and knowledge to carefully score each proposal submitted to the conference. Then, from those proposals, they develop and recommend sessions to be presented at the conference.  When all is said and done, about 1,000 of those 2,200 proposals are accepted to the conference as panels, roundtables, posters, and super sessions. 

Before you dismiss the conference thinking that those aren’t very good odds of acceptance, I have good news!  We have some tried and true pieces of advice to help ensure your research gets added to the conference agenda!

1. Diversify – The most interesting sessions bring together a variety of perspectives on a similar topic so that the audience can weigh all findings before coming to a conclusion themselves.  This is always important but especially so this year because the conference theme is Engaging Diverse Perspectives on Issues and Evidence.  When submitting a full panel or roundtable, make sure that your speaker line up includes diversity on all levels so that unique perspectives are included in the session.  We recommend making sure that your session is diverse in all areas, from speaker demographics, to organizational diversity, to methodology in research.  

2. Get Together – Did you know that fully submitted panel sessions, ones with 3-4 papers, a chair, and 1-2 discussants, are more than twice as likely to be accepted than a single research paper?  Check in with your colleagues and peers to see if they’re doing work around a similar topic as yours and if so, suggest a panel session!  If you’re just starting out and do not have these networks established yet – don’t worry – we have a resource to help!  The Single Paper Listing is provided each year on APPAM’s submissions page.  The Listing shows all single papers submitted to the conference, organized by policy area.  It’s updated weekly leading up to the submission deadline and includes the key paper information such as abstract, authors, and contact information.  If you find a paper that would work well with yours, use the information in the Listing to contact the paper authors directly.  If they’re interested, you can withdraw the original single papers and resubmit as a panel.  It’s that easy!

3. Clarity is Key – Whether you’re submitting a paper, poster, panel, roundtable, or super session, the best thing you can do is be clear about what you’re proposing.  For papers and posters, what is your research question?  Topic importance?  What is the methodology behind your research?  What did you find and can it be summarized easily for presentation?  For panels, roundtables, and super sessions, do the speakers or involved papers maintain a unified theme throughout the proposed session?  How is the session topic and purpose relevant and timely? How does the session topic go beyond what is already generally known?  You’ll have about 500 words to answer these questions in your proposal abstract.  Use the space wisely!

4. Be Flexible – Be willing to present in multiple formats such as roundtables, panels, or posters.  You should also consider volunteering to be a session chair or discussant.  These two roles are instrumental to the success of a session and we always need volunteers!  It’s a great way to participate at the conference, get a feel for how it runs, and to build your professional network. 

Hopefully this provides some insight into the sometimes mysterious process of our conference session selection and inspire you to submit your research to the conference.  We take pride in being the premier public policy conference and we know that wouldn’t be possible without the best and brightest in the field sharing their work with us.  

We look forward to your submission!

Back to news