The guidelines below help the association promote a diverse array of participants at the annual meeting. We encourage submissions from faculty members, independent scholars, public practitioners, graduate students, artists, and community activists among others. We aim to make the submission and evaluation process as transparent as possible to ensure proposals with the best chances of acceptance.
Appearing on the program of the annual meeting, in the vast majority of cases, is the result of a proposal submission and review process. Depending on the space limitations of a particular meeting facility and the number of submissions in a given year, the process is variably competitive. Regardless of the circumstances, however, the absence of methodological, disciplinarity, institutional, and/or rank diversity is a primary reason that proposals are not accepted.
The Program Committee
Each annual meeting is organized through extensive work by the Program Committee. The Program Committee consists of 12 members appointed by the president-elect with approval of the Executive Committee, who are divided into three subcommittees. Two subcommittees are responsible for evaluating session proposals. The third subcommittee is responsible for evaluating and constructing panels out of individual submissions.
The Program Committee evaluates submissions remotely before convening in Washington, D.C., in March to determine the program. At their March meeting, the Program Committee, the president-elect, the executive director, and three ASA staff members go through each submission, make final decisions on contested panels, and piece together constructed sessions from the individual submissions.
Each Program Committee is different, but in recent years they have tended to accept submissions at high rates. The 2016 Program Committee accepted 647 of the 816 total submissions, putting the acceptance rate at 79%. Of those, 398 were session proposals, and 90% were accepted. Individual submissions, as is typical, had a lower acceptance rate with 288 of 418 (69%) making it onto the program.
How to Get Accepted
- Diversify your panel. Ideal session proposals are composed of scholars from different disciplinary and methodological backgrounds, institutions, and rank. Program committees usually raise questions if a panel has two people from the same institution, and almost always turns down sessions with two pairs of institutional colleagues or three submitters from the same place. Also, panels made up of all or close to all graduate students, assistant professors, associate professors, or full professors will usually not make the program.
- Only submit once, either individually or as part of a session, including as a chair or commenter. Though some exceptions apply, these are all initiated by the program committee.
- Start Early. The deadline for proposals is February 1. If you are constructing a session, you must coordinate with several people to collect abstracts and draft a rationale that is rigorous and aligns with the meeting’s theme.
- Submit on time. The ASA does not accept late or incomplete submissions. The submissions website closes at midnight (Pacific Time) on February 1.
- Adhere to word counts. Make sure your submission is detailed enough to clearly articulate your topic, method, and argument without exceeding the word limit.
- Submit as part of a complete session. Individual paper submissions are less likely to be accepted than session proposals. It may be difficult to construct a panel if you have to reach out to people you do not know. Use the ASA’s Panel Collaboration feature to coordinate with other members.
- Be cogent. Each session proposal should have a panel abstract that clearly articulates the stakes of the research, the thematic regularities across the individual papers, and the relevance of the work to the conference theme. There should also be abstracts for each individual paper and short bios for each participant.
- Choose a good chair. It may take a few tries before someone agrees, but scholars are aware of what it takes to put a panel together. Do not hesitate to reach out. A good chair is often a leader in a field and will likely be used to such inquiries, or “cold calls.” You may also consider asking an advisor to connect you with a potential chair.
How to Host a Good Panel
- Keep your commitments. Panels often suffer because of no-shows. Please contact your fellow panelists and the ASA office at email@example.com the moment you are certain you will be unable to make it.
- Circulate your paper. You should send your commentator and chair the exact paper you plan to present at the conference a month or so beforehand to allow them time to develop their thoughts. Your fellow panelists would also benefit from reading your paper beforehand.
- Stick to the time limit. Your panel will be given 1 hour and 45 minutes to present. This time includes the chair’s remarks, each individual paper, a comment, and Q&A. There is no set standard for how time should be distributed to account for the different elements of a panel. Those details should be coordinated among the panel participants beforehand.
- Engage the audience. The audience present at your panel has chosen to forego at least a dozen other panels. Make sure you allow time for them to voice their opinions and impressions.
Attending the Annual Meeting
The ASA welcomes all participants to the Annual Meeting, whether they are presenters or not. Please consider attending the conference even if you are not presenting. For American studies scholars early in their academic careers, it is wise to attend an academic conference as a professionalizing activity. Being immersed in the intellectual life of the field will allow young scholars the opportunity to establish connections and grow intellectually.
Cancellations and Absences
If your proposal is accepted, and you find that you cannot attend the Annual Meeting:
- Let your panel chair, other panelists, and the ASA staff know right away.
- Make alternative arrangements. You might send a digital recording of the paper or presentation to the session chair. You may also upload the talk online, for example to YouTube or Vimeo, which could be shown at the conference. You may also send the paper or presentation to the panel chair so it may be read by someone else.
If these steps are not taken, panelists will be considered "no-shows"—a designation that will make it difficult for the panelist to participate at future meetings.
For panelists and chairs: be flexible and creative in dealing with cancellations or absences. If only one person is absent, the panel chair or commentator should read the paper, or ask that one of the other panelists do so. If you have more than one person absent, you should still plan to hold the panel; in that case, you might even bring in a friend or colleague to add their voice to the panel. Colleagues who agree to read someone’s paper are doing a service; they will not be listed on the program, and are exempt from the no-double-appearances rule.
The number of people who have to cancel is usually small. Your commitment to the intellectual life of the ASA is much appreciated, and your ingenuity and good humor will go a long way to making things work well at the annual meeting.