Tag Archives: conference

Conference advice from an assistant’s viewpoint

tl;dr: ~1600 words

Over at the Duck, Stephen Saideman presented some great ideas of belated conference proposal advice for the International Studies Association 2014. It’s more of a general piece which is equally helpful for other conferences. His four main points are

(1) do organize panels if you can – they are more coherent. Have a mixed crowd on the panel; do not submit the individual paper(s) as well
(2) have short and clear abstract– keep it simple, do not give too much detail, have a clear and exciting title (see also Leanne Powner’s abstract-writing worksheet)
(3) you do not need to link your submissions to the theme by all means – ISA sections have panel allocations independent of the theme or may issue separate calls
(4) make sure to send your submission(s) to the right section(s)

While these points are worthwhile, I think that Steve is too rigorous on some other points. I started off writing a comment given my experience working for last year’s ISA conference but quickly realized that I would have quite a long list of additional points which go beyond a mere “comment”. So, I will  spell these out in more detail. And, following Megan MacKenzie’s ISA survival guide and Steve’s proposal advice, I would add some points regarding the months in between so that we have covered the whole ISA cycle. Continue reading Conference advice from an assistant’s viewpoint

KFG Newsletter looks back at ISA

We completely forgot to link to this, but better late than never: The KFG Newsletter 1/2013 is available available online, including a look back at ISA 2013 written by two contributors to this blog (pages 11-13).

We even managed so sneak a little self-promotion in there:

Blogging – or tweeting for that matter – is still not very common in German and European academic circles, but has made its way in the US-American branch of the profession. At ISA, established and newly active bloggers got together to celebrate the best of their kind and discuss matters of visibility and improvement. Judging from the great experiences at ISA, we are confident that blogging can be a great tool to present research and to engage with a broader audience.

Speaking of conferences: I’m currently enjoying the warmth of Washington D.C. and learning a lot about Latin America. Will report once back in cold and rainy Berlin.

Varieties of Powerpoint

Apart from teaching me a lot of interesting things, last week’s conference showcased the whole range of academic presenting. Now that I have witnessed some U.S. variants of familiar European patterns, I feel confident enough to attempt a typology of what could be called the Varieties of Powerpoint.

-1- The Wall-of-Text Orthodox

Varieties of Powerpoint 1Unfortunately, this is the bread-and-butter type of presentation, at least in European settings. Usually it involves slides using the respective institution’s (slightly old-fashioned) corporate design, very few images in a comically low resolution, and lots of text. If you’re particularly unlucky, this text will then be read out loud by the presenter.

In any case, he or she will have a hard time getting through all of the 23 full-text slides, leading to a dizzying whirl of words when skipping through “the less important points here”. The good thing here is that, if you were to miss the talk (e.g. because you were sleeping) but could then acquire a copy of the slides, you would still know more or less everything of importance in the paper. Of course, the downside of this style of presenting is that you actually might doze off…

Pros: If you don’t want to read the paper, you’ll find the money quotes here
Cons: Boring; no added value of having slides; you either fall asleep or get angry
Bonus point: If there’s a single “funny” thank-you image on the last slide
Who does it? Mostly the Germans

Continue reading Varieties of Powerpoint

“The ISA Underestimated Us!”


Last week at ISA I attended a panel on “The End of the Western and the Rise of Chinese IR Theory”. After my experiences with panels on Latin American IR (blog post will follow) and a general low attendance of any panel, I expected maybe half a dozen interested listeners. However, what I got when I entered was an over-crowded room with too few chairs and people standing in the hallway to get some glimpse of what was going on instead! Given the ratio of room size and people actually showing up, it was the best attended panel I have seen this whole week. As the chair Zhang Yongjin put it: “ISA underestimated us!”

For anybody familiar with the discourse on a rising Chinese IR theory, or even Chinese School of IR, not much new was gained from this panel. But the panelists definitely achieved to engage their audience into the topic. Continue reading “The ISA Underestimated Us!”

Brief Update from ISA


I’m very sorry about the lack of posts. Here’s a brief updates with first impressions from the ISA Convention in San Francisco:

  • Twitter: Check out the Tweets using the #ISA2013 hashtag! There’s a wild mix of funny and/or insightful stuff going around.
  • Jet-lag jinx: Yesterday I proudly told everyone how I’m not jet-lagged at all. And I wasn’t. Today I woke up at 5 am, thinking that I really need to write something for the blog, and then couldn’t sleep anymore. Bad karma?
  • Varieties of Powerpoint: The very first panel I saw had them all. The over-achiever, with fancy slides like in a TED Talk, who unfortunately failed to get to his results before the time ran out. The German academic with classic wall-of-text slides. And the pro, with slides so well done that I got self-conscious about my own… wish me luck!
  • Attendance: The conference dynamics are a mystery to me. The aforementioned panel had a pretty famous discussant and I was sure a lot of people would show up. In the end, a crowd of 8 was listening to 7 panelists. I’ll try to improve my forecasting skills in that regard.
  • People currently in Berlin, please stop reading now.
  • Weather: Sunshine! We had lunch outside! Palm trees and blue sky! No matter how the conference will go the next three days, the trip was worth it…

(Tip of the hat to Kai S., who provided at least 50% of the idea for the image above.)

A “Conference / workshop / methods school” on Identity


As a graduate student, you regularly go to academic conferences. This is important for a number of reasons: First, and probably most importantly, a usual conference comes with a deadline. Being accepted thus means that you are forced to write and hand in something that you might otherwise contemplate about for another six months. Conferences thus provide structure to the life of the graduate student. Plus, you usually meet nice people who you already know or would like to get to know (see also: “free booze”). So, there’s nothing wrong with the big conferences.

However, they can also be quite disappointing. You may be lucky and end up with a discussant helping to improve your work tremendously. Or you may not. Occasionally, you just don’t find people dealing with similar theoretical and methodological questions. Finally, most conferences last only one to three days so that you don’t have the time for repeated conversations over a few days.

Last week, I had the privilege to participate in a different type of event: the Young Scholars School (YSS) on European Identity, which took place from March 17 – 23 in Jena and was organized by the convenors of the ECPR Standing Group Identity, Viktoria Kaina and Pawel Karolewski.

What made this “conference” quite special was the fact that the event did not fit into one of the regular forms of academic interaction on the graduate student level. Neither could it be labeled a method summer/winter school, nor was it a series of lectures or a mere graduate conference. Continue reading A “Conference / workshop / methods school” on Identity

Meet us at ISA 2013


Some of us will be leaving for San Francisco next week to attend the ISA Annual Convention. For me, it will not only be the first big conference, but also my first time to California. A few people have given me tips already –best burrito in town etc., thanks D.!-, but I was still glad to see Megan MacKenzie’s ISA Survival Guide for Grad Students over at the Duck of Minerva.

A good part of her advice is, very pragmatically, concentrated on finding as much free booze and food as possible. We’re happy to help fellow grad students (and everyone else) in that regard: A great opportunity to meet some of the people blogging here is going to the reception held by the Collaborative Research Center (SFB 700) and Research College (KFG) “The Transformtive Power of Europe”.

There will be lots of nice people from Berlin … as well as food and drinks:

Joint Reception & Poster Presentation by SFB 700 & KFG
Wednesday, April 3, 7:00 to 8.30 p.m.
Continental 6 Ballroom
Hilton San Francisco Union Square

See you around, or somewhere else at ISA 2013! (Next to offering free booze, SFB/KFG also host a number of interesting panels, by the way…)