dysfunctional ASA rules?

I like on-line paper submission a lot. But I’m worried that the rigid selection rules ASA has imposed along with the on-line system are dysfunctional, specifically that a paper can only be seen by the organizer to whom it has been submitted and that organizer of choice #2 only sees the paper if organizer of choice #1 rejects it. Back in the bad old days, we had to deal with boxes and boxes of paper — I got several hundred submissions one year — and we had to mail all those papers on to the roundtable organizers when we were done with them. I’m happy to be past that. But the organizers of the “regular” and “section” sessions in my area would work together, pulling papers from both submission piles to create the best possible groupings of papers into sessions. And an organizer who had obviously meritorious papers that s/he could not use would call other organizers to see if they had come up short on papers and would like an extra, or an organizer who did not have enough good submissions would call around to see if there were good papers out there s/he could pick up. No quality controls forced papers to be put into the sessions to which they had been submitted, although I always tried to check with an author before moving a paper to a totally different session topic than they’d submitted to. There is always tremendous unevenness in how many papers each session organizer receives. It seems likely that ASA’s rigid rules have increased the likelihood that papers on closely related topics are scattered across different sessions. And have introduced more random noise than there already was into the relation between the merits of the paper and its chances of being accepted. This is my first year being a session organizer under the new system, so I don’t know if these suspicions are correct. Does anybody else have a sense of perspective about this?

Author: olderwoman

I'm a sociology professor but not only a sociology professor. I keep my name out of this blog because I don't want my name associated with it in a Google search. Although I never write anything in a public forum like a blog that I'd be ashamed to have associated with my name (and you shouldn't either), it is illegal for me to use my position as a public employee to advance my religious or political views, and the pseudonym helps to preserve the distinction between my public and private identities. The pseudonym also helps to protect the people I may write about in describing public or semi-public events I've been involved with. You can read about my academic work on my academic blog http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/soc/racepoliticsjustice/ --Pam Oliver

12 thoughts on “dysfunctional ASA rules?”

  1. I don’t have any sense of perspective about this, but I was really frustrated this year when my second choice was a roundtable. I’ve been to some really great roundtables in my time, so it’s not all about dissin’ on the roundtables, but the “one regular session” rule hurt me this year as my paper would have been perfectly acceptable in two of those sessions. Yet, the only “section session” that it’s appropriate in is a roundtable. I’m thinking that I’m not the only person in my area confronting this issue and the poor section roundtable organizer is going to have a lot of papers to sort through.

    Back to your point, though, I know a number of people who feel they’ve been hurt by this process. A large part of it, it seems, is the speed with which the organizer of first choice sessions makes decisions.

  2. I haven’t dealt with organizing regular or session panels. I organized my section roundtables a couple of years ago, and will do so again this year (at least my section is small). A fair number of papers got left as “pending” to the roundtables because the organizer in the second choice session never “released” the paper. I still don’t know if this was a software problem or “operator error” by the session organizers. So, please release your unwanted papers or they may never get to the roundtables!

  3. “A fair number of papers got left as “pending” to the roundtables because the organizer in the second choice session never “released” the paper.”

    A similar thing happened to me twice in the last three years. The organizer of my first choice of session never released my paper. By the time I followed up, my second choice was full, and I ended up at the roundtables. One roundtable was great, last year’s was a waste of time.

  4. As an organizer the thing that I dislike about the system is the inability to check in to see who has or has not submitted papers to the session. There is no way for me to see if I need to offer reminders or encouragement to specific folks. It would be much better if organizers could access the queue throughout the entire process so that the submission process was more interactive.

  5. I organized a regular session a few years ago and I recall thinking that those who had specified it as #2 had absolutely no chance of getting in. The reason was that I had plenty of submissions as is and wanted to get them done precisely so those who couldn’t get into my sessions could then be passed on to their second choice. It may well be that papers that listed my session as second choice would’ve been as good as ones I took, but the timing was all off.

  6. I had the same problem as Jessica – my second choice ended up having to be a roundtable. There were multiple regular sessions I could have sent my paper to, but I was limited to only one. Bah!

  7. Escter’s comment is on target. I’ve done both section and regular sessions several timees under the new system. And, it’s worse than that–technical failures nixed several papers from consideration (we never got them, though one author got it to me after suspecting something). The only time I ever got “second choice” submissions was WAY after the deadline for organizers to have submitted their sessions to the ASA. While I hope to avoid organizing again for a few decades or so, I’d prefer to see both first and second choices all at once.

  8. the system does have its share of problems. does anyone know how a session organizer (me) can accept a paper that the author could not upload even though he was able to send it to me on time? I have not seen the full set of papers that will be submitted to my session, so I am not sure I will accept it, but it seems horribly unfair to me that a paper that is really good and was done in time should not be able to be considered because of problems with the submisssion process.

  9. I sent a note to ASA about my concerns, and I would recommend that others do the same. Not cranky crazy letters, of course, but reasonable expressions of concern and proposed solutions.

  10. I have only voted for Republicans twice in my life: one was a woman I knew who was running for county coroner in Indiana, and the other was a youthful mistake. Nonetheless, I would vote for Michael Bloomberg for President of ASA in a bothering heartbeat, if his platform was to try to bring organizational aspects of the annual meetings more in line with the preferences of members.

  11. Scorrell, I did that in the past. I had to submit my final list of sessions to the ASA, and sent an e-mail to the ASA about the paper which was not in their system. They fixed it just fine. So, that is a good thing.

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