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AMS/SMT Virtual 2020

Changes in the Program Selection Process

At its meeting in April 2019, the AMS Board of Directors approved a proposal from the Task Force on the Program Committee to modify the review process for abstracts submitted for the Annual Meeting. In a nutshell, members of the AMS Council will be the chief reviewers of the abstracts, and the Program Committee will act as a steering committee and create the final program. The aim of this new plan is two-fold. First, the Board would like the participation of a wider circle of the membership, with more expertise and diversity in the making of the Annual Meeting. Second, this reduces the exceedingly heavy workload imposed on the Program Committee. The rationale is a simple one: to provide each submitted abstract with the careful consideration it deserves.

Over the last decade, the number of submitted abstracts has risen greatly. The San Antonio and Boston meetings each had about seven hundred abstracts, whereas the Vancouver meeting attracted approximately eight hundred. As one program committee chair wrote, “The labor involved is sustained and demanding; the reality is that reviewers can spend only a small amount of time assessing any particular abstract. My hope is that if reviewers had fewer abstracts to read, they could spend more time checking up on sources, claims, and novelty . . . , [and] committee members would be able to give each a more thorough vetting.” And because of the much larger number of reviewers, there will be greater reviewer diversity in stages and types of career, race and ethnicity, subject expertise, and other areas. Furthermore, Council members are elected by the membership and are therefore more broadly representative of the Society. All this will help build a better and stronger program.

Only non-student members of Council will participate in the reviewing process. Council members who have submitted proposals for consideration will not be eligible to be reviewers. It is not obligatory for the eligible Council members to participate in the review; all reviewers serve on a voluntary basis. Because of these parameters, each volunteer could still end up with a large number of proposals to read, so we decided to extend the reader pool to eligible Council members from the last five years. Although the abstract allocation is necessarily an unknown at this time, each reviewer might assess up to sixty abstracts. The Program Committee will conduct final discussions based on the comments and numerical scores given by the Council readers and will form the final program for the annual meeting.

Each Council reviewer will be given a rubric for scoring and will go through implicit bias training and assessment. It is the hope of the Board that this will help to make the adjudication process as fair as possible.

The Task Force on the Program Committee was established after the Board retreat in April 2018, and is chaired by Judy Tsou (CAM chair); other members include Bonnie Gordon (Board liaison), and program chairs Daniel Goldmark, Mark Katz, and Richard Will. The proposal was further refined by Bonnie Gordon, Mark Katz, and Judy Tsou.

—Judy Tsou, Chair, Committee on the Annual Meeting