Organizing a panel at a conference is one of APECS's most frequent activities. They are a very useful way for young researchers to gain career advice, and to meet some great senior researchers and mentors. And the good thing about them: they are very easy to organize on a low budget!
Every APECS member can set up a panel at a conference and this guide will provide the organizers with step-by-step introduction on how to do it!
Organizing APECS panels at conferences aims to create a forum where participants have the opportunity to meet established polar experts from various fields, early career scientists and post-docs beginning as PIs, and government funding agency representatives, in order to draw inspiration and advice from their experience. This will create an informal venue for participants to make contacts and become actively involved in discussions throughout the conference and beyond.
So how do I get started? Some of the basic questions you have to ask yourself are:
- Are the conference organizers interested in having an APECS panel?
- What should be the topic of the panel?
- How long should the panel be?
- Where and when can the panel occur (time / room)?
- Whom could I invite as panelists?
- How do I advertise the panel?
- Do I need to do fundraising?
- What are the steps to organizing an APECS Panel?
This should be done ideally 3 – 4 months before the start of the conference. Contact the conference organizers (see sample email 1) and ask if it is ok for you to organize an APECS panel at their conference. Provide a brief outline of what APECS is, why you think this panel is important, and what you hope to achieve.
Think about what would be interesting for early career scientists to learn about! We propose a discussion panel that will expose the participants to many aspects of polar research and provide information on various topics including, but not limited to:
• Potential career paths in Polar Research
• How careers in polar research are supported by various National and International organizations and institutes
• How to start a polar research career or project
• The Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS) and how through this network participants can access information about international opportunities in Polar Research and become involved in a range of outreach initiatives and the organization of future meetings and workshops.
• Effectively communicating your Science
• Teaching, Education and Outreach
• Funding your research and activities
• International Collaborations
This can be anywhere from an hour to several hours. We have found that a 1.5 hour block works well. Keep in mind, if you have a longer panel it might be a good idea to schedule in a break so participants and mentors stay energized.
Talk with the conference organizers. See if they would have a room for you to use during the conference. The size and resources provided can be pretty flexible, but keep in mind if you want each panel member to give a short presentation, you will need a laptop, projector, screen, etc. We have found in the past that a room with moveable chairs and tables (i.e. not terraced auditorium seating) provides for a more intimate atmosphere, but the choice is up to you. If you just want it to be a few folks at the head of the room giving an introduction and answering questions, standard conference type seating will work. You may also want to have something smaller with all the chairs in a circle. This will depend on the size and what you want. Make sure you find out in advance how to control the lights and audio visual equipment in the room.
You should also discuss with the conference organizers about how the panel can best fit into the conference schedule so it doesn’t conflict with any other activities. It also might depend on your panelists on which date you can organize the panel. We have done these panels over lunch which works well. We have also had them at the end of the day after the science presentations have concluded. These evening events are very well attended, especially if there are appetizers and refreshments. It is also nice to invite the participants of the event together with the panelists (and any other mentors interested) to a pub for continued discussion in a more informal setting to get to know each other.
It is important to think about to whom you are targeting this panel, and have a rough idea of what you want to achieve before you start contacting mentors. Invite 3-4 senior mentors with various expertises to serve on the panel. It is always good to do some research on if there are any local mentors, or who is planning on attending the conference anyway and then ask those people if they would want to be a panelists in your session. This way you don’t have to raise any funds for getting your panelists to the conference. Invitations should be sent out 2 – 3 months in advance via email (see sample letter 2) to the panelists and reminders about 2 – 3 weeks before the event to confirm they are still on board- flexibility and alternate plans are good to keep in mind up until the last minute- schedules often change up until the last minute.
Possible panelists include:
• Undergraduate, graduate student
• New Faculty member
• Mid-Career level researcher
• Senior researcher
• Researchers that work outside of academia (NGOs, Industry). Definitely have at least one not in academia!
• Representative from funding agency
• Education and Outreach specialist
• Someone involved with science planning
• Someone from one of the large international polar bodies, such as the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), the Arctic Ocean Sciences Board (AOSB), the Climate and the Cryosphere Program (CliC), etc.
• Someone involved with logistical operations for polar field research (this provides an alternative career path, as well as a point of contact for young researchers when filling out the often daunting logistic requirements for field work)
• Someone involved in polar policy (with increased awareness of polar regions and the importance of these regions to not only global climate, but the global economy, a person from this area will provide participant with insight into how polar policy is formed, the important organizations and sensitivities when dealing with polar policy)
You want to make sure people actually know about your panel! So ask the conference organizers to include you in the program and on their website. We will of course add the panel to the APECS website once you have set a date for it and can send the APECS members an email about it. But try to see where else you would want to advertise your panel so as many early career researchers as possible that attend the conference will be able to attend (e.g. posters, slides in lecture rooms during breaks).
Contact the conference organizers ahead of time to see if you can use a room free of charge for the APECS event and at what time. If you want to offer some refreshments (always nice), also try to get some funding from the conference organizers. If they can't provide any funding, try the agencies that are sponsoring the conference, as well as polar research organizations, companies producing measurement equipment for polar research, or even local businesses (cafe’s, outdoor gear stores, etc.; see sample email 3). Try to organize everything at the lowest cost possible or best for free!
If the event is in the evening, it is likely that people will want to go out for food and/or drinks afterwards. Make sure to have a plan for that. Consult locals to choose a place (within walking distance, if possible) and if appropriate book a table/space beforehand.
...you should submit a short writeup as an article to the APECS website and to be included in the APECS newsletter. Make sure to take video / pictures wherever possible, thank those who made the event happen, and summarize the key points that were made by the panellists.