August 9, 2015

ICPhS Behind the Scenes: The Discussant Sessions

Posted in icphs tagged , , at 1:27 pm by mariawolters

In this series of blog posts, I would like to take you behind the scenes of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS) in Glasgow. All posts are written to be accessible to both phoneticians and non-phoneticians.

Discussant Sessions are an innovation that have become quite common in conferences that deal with speech and speaking. The papers in each session are hand-picked by a senior, highly respected researcher, who provides an introduction and facilitates discussion. These sessions replace Special Sessions which typically have dedicated calls for papers.

Bert Remijsen and Pavel Iosad organised the Discussant Sessions at ICPhS. Ten outstanding scholars agreed to be Discussants, covering a range of basic and applied phonetics. Once the original acceptance notices had gone out on April 1, these discussants had three to four weeks to put together their sessions from all those papers whose authors had indicated they would like to be considered for these sessions – an extremely challenging task. Discussants had access to both abstracts and full papers.

Scheduling these sessions was governed by several constraints. First and foremost, Discussant Sessions are longer than normal sessions, to allow for the discussant’s introduction and a subsequent discussion, after all papers have been given. This means Discussant sessions had to be scheduled as far as possible in parallel, while making enough space in the programme for 72 additional oral sessions and leaving the now traditional Wednesday afternoon free for workshops, sightseeing, and recovery. As a result, Discussant sessions are in two blocks, one on Monday, and one on Friday.

This decision also allows us to have Discussant Sessons in rooms with sufficient capacity.

The next constraint was speaker availability. Some discussants were not avaiable on Monday, some speakers were not available on one of those days, and some lucky people were coauthors on papers that had been selected for two different Discussant sessions – and we wanted them to be able to attend both sessions.

Finally, we attempted to separate Discussant Sessions that were of interest to the same group of people, but that proved next to impossible while making sure that speakers (and authors) could attend the sessions where their papers would be given.

We are hoping to at least partially address this scheduling issue by the fashionable remedy of crowdsourcing.

So if you are on social media and in a discussant session, please tweet, facebook, and blog it – share the findings, share the excitement, and maybe we can even get some discussion going across sessions!

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