Just what is a symposium?

Most academic conferences start with the business of abstract submission. This can be a one stage, or maybe even a multi-stage process, with several streams taking place simultaneously - eg. research and practice, or sequentially - usually abstracts followed by final papers. But where do symposia fit into all of this?

Dictionary definitions aside, and if you also disregard the term symposium as being interchangeable with conference, within the academic conference sphere, a symposium could be loosely explained as a mini-conference within a conference. Along with workshops and breakouts, symposia can take place as part of a conference, or could be the format of the entire event.

As per the first definition above, symposia are essentially discussions - discussions where different viewpoints are given from relevant experts in their fields on a specific topic under the guidance of a Chair. Topics, although within a particular field, tend to be more focussed and in depth. For instance, at a conference on Criminology, there might be a symposium focussed on hostage negotiations. From a logistical and admin point of view and depending on how the event is set up, the symposium proposer will invite authors to attach their abstracts to their symposium, culminating in a conference session hosting the proceedings.

A symposium usually has a Chair (often the symposium submitter), and a discussant. The discussant’s role is to read the papers and use their expertise to explore how they advance and further the topic of the symposium. It is up to the symposium proposer to provide the names of the Chair and discussant, but the process of attaching abstracts can differ.

Oxford Abstracts Symposia bolt-on has been created to manage different ways of controlling who can submit a symposium and who can attach abstracts to symposia but roughly, these fit into three types of permission - Public, Private and Admin only.

Public - can be created by anyone, abstracts submitted by anyone.

Private - can be created by anyone, only abstract submitters who are invited by the symposium creator can submit.

Admin only - can only be created by an administrator, with abstracts submitted by anyone.

The bolt-on can sit alongside the standard abstract management process, so abstracts can either be reviewed as part of a symposium, or individually. There is a range of tools and features that can help you get to grips with the symposium administration, and the bolt-on integrates seamlessly with any of the Oxford Abstracts packages, which include delegate registration, multi-stage and the online program.

Get in touch and we can set you up with a free trial.