January 2011

Submitting a special symposium proposal? Get the inside scoop

ASBMB conference manager Jlynn J. Frazier offers some tips on submitting proposals for the 2012 Special Symposia series.


The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is now accepting proposals for 2012 Special Symposia series topics. Each year, all proposals initially are reviewed by the Small Meetings Committee, chaired by Ali Shilatifard of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, and then sent to the Meetings Committee for a second round of review and approval. If you’re planning on submitting a proposal, here are some hints for increasing the likelihood of a successful symposium.

Propose a catchy title

Your title should make clear what the meeting is about but should also draw the attention of the reviewers and, once your proposal is approved, your potential attendees. Come up with a couple of ideas and provide them in your proposal. The reviewers also may make suggestions.

Clearly define the meeting description

A clearly defined description is specific about what aspects of the proposed topic will be covered. If possible, try to identify the three or four key questions that will serve as the framework for the meeting. This not only will be helpful to the reviewers but also will be important when soliciting participation from speakers and for abstract submissions. It also is essential to include your vision for the meeting format – explain how you will organize the meeting to provide adequate interaction and inclusion of a variety of presentations that incorporate emerging areas in the field.

Emphasize the impact statement

An impact statement places the proposed meeting within a larger scientific context and points out the timeliness and unique aspects of the particular topic. Ask yourself: Why this topic and at this time? Within this statement, you should identify the potential impact that this meeting will have for the ASBMB membership in addition to the larger scientific community.

Determine the people and place

An excellent meeting topic leads to a successful meeting when you bring a community of people to the right place at the same time. Begin by identifying who you want to attend the meeting. Now that you have your outline of topics and have defined the questions, identify approximately 10 speakers you intend to invite. For each speaker, briefly state a topic and how that speaker can provide a unique perspective by sharing new data. Then identify the specific target audience(s) for this meeting. Ask yourself what types of scientists might be interested in attending the meeting. Once you have identified the key speakers and the target audience, consider the best time and place for the meeting. For instance, would an East Coast or a West Coast meeting be better suited for the attendees? Or perhaps your institution would be an ideal location to host the meeting. Finally, identify potential meetings that might be competing for the same attendees. For example, we all know that the ASBMB annual meeting is in April, so avoid that time of year.

We want to hear from you!

Not sure that you want to organize a meeting but have suggestions for topics you would like to see become part of the 2012 Special Symposia series? To share your ideas with us, please send an e-mail titled “Special Symposia Topics.”

Identify opportunities for support

Once a proposal is accepted, ASBMB provides seed money to support the meeting. Meeting organizers also are required to raise additional funds. The amount needed for your meeting will depend on the length and location of the meeting and the specific program offerings. Sponsors take many forms, including corporate sponsorships, donations for best poster awards, travel and meeting grants, or joint sponsorships with other societies. A list of potential sponsors should be included. If you have had initial conversations with potential sponsors, include that information as well.

Meeting proposals for the 2012 Special Symposia series are currently being accepted through March 1. This is an exciting time of growth for the Special Symposia Series and a wonderful opportunity for members to submit proposals in their specific fields of biochemistry and molecular biology. To learn more about the ASBMB Special Symposia Series and to see the guidelines for submitting a meeting proposal, visit the ASBMB website.

Jlynn J. Frazier (jfrazier@asbmb.org) is conference manager at ASBMB.

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