2012 AAAS Annual Meeting (16-20 February 2012) - Call for Proposals

Call for Symposium Proposals

Flattening the World: Building the 21st Century Global Knowledge Society

The 21st century is shaping up to be a challenging one. The issues that face us are many: climate change, energy, agriculture, health, water, biodiversity and ecosystems, population growth, and economic development. They are both global in their scope and profoundly interconnected.

Growing the food - and feed and fiber and fuel - demanded by a still expanding and increasingly affluent human population will require innovations not just in agriculture, but in water and land management, food processing and transportation, and many other areas such as international trade and regulatory policies. Energy drives our economies. How do we transition to energy sources that do not perturb our climate and use a disproportionate amount of the water we need for people and agriculture without taking an economic beating? Decimating what remains of the tropic's forests will as surely exacerbate climate change as it will reduce biodiversity and impact ecosystem services. What do the climatic warming trends well underway mean for agriculture, for public health, for the survival of our coastal cities? What does adaptation really entail?

It's one big thorny tangle: people, money, food, energy, health, water, land, climate, biodiversity. How do we as scientists, engineers, and policy-makers begin to think - and act - on a global scale to address such complicated, cross-cutting problems? How do we tackle the sheer complexity of global systems, be they economic, ecological, or educational? How do we begin to develop truly global models, and then solutions, through multinational collaborative efforts?

We live in an age of instant global communication, a time when collaborations between countries and continents have never been easier, at least from a technical standpoint. A stunning example is the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator, which is being used by a multinational group of physicists to understand the fundamental building blocks and laws of nature, from subatomic to cosmic. Remote sensing technology enables the detailed observation of virtually every aspect of our planet's surface, subsurface, and climate. Stores of information and knowledge can be accessed from anywhere by anyone. Technology and the Internet are transforming education. Learning is, in principle, available to everyone everywhere.

The focus of the 2012 meeting, then, is on using the power of electronic communications and information resources to tackle the complex problems of the 21st century on a global scale through international, multidisciplinary efforts. We have a model already in the scale and scope of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But that's just the beginning. The interconnections among, for example, climate change, agriculture ,and health are as yet poorly understood; predictive modeling is in its infancy.

The ability to approach global problems through global collaborations depends on an educated populace and on substantial scientific and technological sophistication throughout the world. Thus building the global knowledge society depends on advancing education and research, the engines of the knowledge society, everywhere. This task is facilitated, but not accomplished, by the existence of electronically accessible open educational resources. There remain limitations of language and culture, of poverty and access.

We invite the submission of proposals for symposia that address the issues articulated above and interconnections among them, calling on experts from around the world. In general, the focus should be on the science and technology, but policy considerations are also relevant. As well, we encourage a focus on the use of information and communications technologies in education, problem solving, and modeling at all levels.

Proposal Submission

The AAAS Annual Meeting is the most important general science venue for a growing segment of scientists and engineers who are interested in the latest advances as well as multidisciplinary topics and the influence of science and technology on how we live today. Thousands of leading scientists, engineers, educators, and policy-makers interact with one another and with hundreds of members from national and international media. In fact, the growing number of international attendees attests to the growing international nature of this gathering. About 160 sessions spread across a dozen tracks are usually presented at the Annual Meeting.

Symposium proposals for the 2012 meeting, which will be held 16-20 February at the Vancouver Convention Center are now being solicited. The deadline for submission is Tuesday, 26 April 2011, 11:59 p.m. PT. Decisions will be announced in early July after the completion of external review and final selection by the AAAS Annual Meeting Scientific Program Committee. Symposium proposal organizers are encouraged to be creative and to focus on the uniqueness and interdisciplinary nature of the Annual Meeting.

The AAAS Annual Meeting Scientific Program Committee is particularly interested in proposals that highlight the theme. However, proposals that are not directly related to the theme will be considered if they involve ground-breaking areas of research, new and exciting developments, or cross-cutting activities in support of science, technology, and education. Successful proposals are characterized by interesting, topical subjects that are thoughtfully developed and include capable and articulate speakers from a broad range of institutions who represent the diversity of science and society. Proposals that cover policy are expected to primarily focus on the cutting-edge aspects of the scientific research driving policy in that particular subject, rather than focusing wholly on the issues beyond the science.

About AAAS

AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science as well as Science Translational Medicine and Science Signaling. AAAS was founded in 1848, and includes some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy; international programs; science education; and more.

Instructions for Submitting Symposium Proposals

The deadline for proposal submission is Tuesday, 26 April 2011, 11:59 p.m. PT. Proposals will not be accepted after the deadline. All proposals will be peer-reviewed. Decisions will be announced in July. To receive notifications, please ensure that the following e-mail addresses will not be blocked: meetings@aaas.org, cjones@aaas.org, nmaylett@aaas.org, and brice@aaas.org.

Follow these instructions carefully. The information you provide will be the primary source of information used by the reviewers to evaluate your proposal. Incomplete proposals will be eliminated from consideration.

For additional guidance, the Program Committee underscores the fact that a successful symposium proposal is characterized by interesting and timely topics that are thoughtfully developed and include capable and articulate speakers who represent the diversity of science and society, including disciplinary field, gender, ethnicity, and geographic location.

SCHEDULING NOTE: When selecting speakers, please ensure that they are available to participate at any time from Friday, 17 February through the morning of Monday, 20 February 2012. Once the schedule for sessions is announced in the fall of 2011, it will be considered final.

LANGUAGE AND STYLE: For language choice, use American English spelling and translations. Meeting attendees come from more than 50 countries. For style, use The Chicago Manual of Style. For example, use a comma before "and" in a series of three or more, and spell out all abbreviations and acronyms. Do not use "ALL CAPS" or for the title of a symposium or the title of a speaker presentation (a correct example: Rethinking the Science, Biology, and Importance of Stem Cells in Regenerative Medicine). AAAS reserves the right to edit all submissions for publication.

TRAVEL SUPPORT: Organizers, speakers, and others participate in the program at their own expense or use funding secured by an organizer from a source that has been vetted by AAAS Meetings to avoid conflicts of interest. As a nonprofit organization, AAAS does not have the financial resources to fund travel expenses for the more than 1,000 program participants at each yearÕs meeting. However, one of the 24 disciplinary sections of AAAS may choose to authorize travel support for speakers, organizers, and discussants from their modest budgets. Funding is limited and typically provides partial support. Co-organizers and moderators are not eligible to apply for travel support unless they are acting as a moderator in place of an organizer who cannot attend the meeting.


1. Set up Proposal


Title must include no more than 85 characters, including spaces. When preparing a proposal and the title of the symposium, organizers are encouraged to be creative and to focus on the interdisciplinary nature of the AAAS Annual Meeting. Please avoid jargon.


Please enter a valid e-mail address where messages can be received and accessed year long. The submitter will immediately receive an e-mail confirming the initiation of a special session proposal.


Specify the total time requested for your symposium. Keep in mind that speakers may travel far and have busy schedules; allow them enough time to make substantive presentations and to take questions from the audience.

There are three session types: 90-minute format; standard 180-minute format; and alternate 180-minute format. The Program Committee reserves the right to accept a proposal contingent on altering the time requested.

  • 90-Minute Format: See Section 2.
  • Standard 180-Minute Format: See Section 2.
  • Alternate 180-Minute Format: You must enter 4 speakers only and 1 moderator, who also can be an organizer, and allow a minimum of 1 hour for interaction with attendees in a breakout session format. During the interactive part, the moderator and speakers can serve as facilitators. The room will be set with a mix of theater and round-table seating.


Proposals for 180-minute symposia must present compelling reasons as to why the additional time is needed.


Please select the Primary Subject Category that best describes the overall nature of the symposium. This information is used by the Program Committee to help generate broader symposium tracks or sub-themes. Please select Secondary Subject Categories within which the symposium falls. This information is used to develop the cross-cutting General Subject Index contained in the Program Book.


If applicable, indicate the primary section affiliation of the session organizer.


Indicate if your proposal has been discussed with an AAAS Section. Consultation is not required, however, sections can provide input to help strengthen a proposal, especially if an organizer is submitting for the first time. Consultation does not imply support or endorsement of a proposal. A list of sections and contacts are available at http://www.aaas.org/aboutaaas/organization/sections/.


Provide a clear, succinct synopsis of your proposed symposium (up to1,500 characters, including spaces) as it would appear in the Program Book. Avoid the use of report or book references, abbreviations, or technical jargon. Do not repeat the meetingÕs theme title in a symposium title or synopsis. Annual Meeting programs are archived at www.aaas.org/meetings and can be a useful source of information.

Describe the subject, highlighting the scientific issues, innovations, or research to be addressed. Do not name or reference speakers or the titles of their presentations in the synopsis. Speakers are listed separately along with their presentation titles and descriptions (see Step 2).


Describe how the proposed symposium relates to the theme (up to 500 characters, including spaces). Almost any topic in science and technology can be related to the theme, and submitters are encouraged to extend their reach by thinking internationally. However, the Committee will consider proposals that are not directly related to the theme if they involve ground-breaking areas of research, new and exciting developments, or cross-cutting activities in support of science, technology, and education.

2. Add/Edit People


Please note: If the organizer or co-organizer will also be participating in the session, each separate role must be entered into the system (e.g., organizer and moderator).

Symposium Organizer

A symposium may only have one organizer. The organizer serves as the primary contact for all communications with AAAS Meetings. It is the responsibility of the organizer to submit the proposal to AAAS and ensure that participants, including the co-organizer(s), receive all information relevant to their inclusion in the proposal and in the Meeting if the proposal is accepted.


A 90-minute session is limited to no more or less than three (3) speakers; an 180-minute symposium is limited to a minimum of four (4) and a maximum of six (6) speakers. Allow speakers enough time to make substantive presentations and to take questions from the audience. If your symposium addresses a subject for which there are differing scientific opinions, include speakers with different perspectives. Speakers all must not be from the same institution.

Optional Roles

Symposium Co-Organizer (optional)

Co-organizers assist the organizer with lining up speakers and ensuring that deadlines are met by symposium participants. There is a maximum of two (2) co-organizers.

Moderator (optional)

A maximum of one (1). This role is filled by the symposium organizer or co-organizer unless one of them cannot attend the meeting. The moderator provides a brief overview, introduces each speaker, and facilitates a general discussion by the audience and speakers through a Q&A session. Moderators do not make presentations, submit abstracts, or have a formal speaking role.

Discussant (optional)

A maximum of one (1) discussant for a 90-minute session and two (2) for a 180-minute standard format session. Discussants provide a brief review of, or counterpoint to, the main topics or issues covered by the panel. They do not make presentations, submit abstracts, or have a formal speaking role. There are no discussants in the 180-minute alternate format; the moderator and speakers serve as facilitators.


You will be required to enter the following information for each individual:

  • Name (confirm correct spelling)
  • Affiliation (primary institution; confirm correct spelling)
  • E-mail address (confirm address where messages can be received year long)
  • City
  • State or Province (if applicable)
  • Country
  • Status (confirmed or invited)
  • Complete mailing address
  • Fax number
  • Telephone number
Without correct contact information, AAAS will be unable to:
  • Confirm participation.
  • Communicate with speakers who apply for travel assistance.
  • Send information to speakers about Newsroom Operations, including invitations to participate in news briefings and interviews.

For each speaker include a firm presentation title (up to 85 characters, including spaces); for example, Domains of Learning and Memory that Are Enhanced with Sleep in Adults. Also, describe the proposed content or perspective of the presentation in a few sentences (up to 500 characters, including spaces). This is crucial to the reviewers' understanding of why you are proposing a particular speaker.

Please do not submit CVs, provide biographical information, or submit abstracts. A request to submit an abstract will be made AFTER the Program Committee has made its program selections. While recognizing that some changes will occur, the committee reserves the right to reconsider symposia if speaker substitutions after acceptance shift in symposiumÕs focus away from the original proposal's.

Status: Invited or Confirmed. Invited means that you have contacted the speaker, and your invitation is under consideration. Confirmed means that the speaker has responded to your invitation and confirmed that he or she is both available over the dates of the meeting and will participate if the proposal is accepted. After the program is final, AAAS will send notifications to all panelists, whether invited or confirmed, to verify their status and request final confirmation.

3. Enter Keywords

Select up to five (5) keywords that best describe your proposal.

4. Confirmation

Once you have entered all the required information for the people in your session (including a presentation description for each speaker), proceed to the Confirmation step. Review all the information you have submitted. If you need to make corrections to any information, just click on the appropriate step link in the left frame. Otherwise, click the "Submit" button at the bottom of the page. To log out, simply close your browser window. If you run into any problems, please e-mail your questions or comments using the hyperlink to Technical Support that appears in the Symposium Control Panel.

5. Review

The following are the scoring considerations used by reviewers. Organizers should carefully follow the instructions for submitting their proposals, which will be scored for completeness and clarity.

1. Evaluate the proposal in general: Is information adequate for evaluation? Does the proposal clearly describe the session? Is it well organized and coherent? More important, is the proposal complete? Please select "1" for all scores if, for example, the proposal contains "TBD" in a field. Use the comments box to identify specific deficiencies.

2. Evaluate the topic: Is the topic timely? Is it suitable for an AAAS Annual Meeting? Is the topic too narrow for a multidisciplinary audience? The AAAS Annual Meeting Scientific Program Committee is particularly interested in proposals that highlight the theme. However, proposals that are not directly related to the theme will be considered if they involve ground-breaking areas of research, new and exciting developments, or cross-cutting activities in support of science, technology, and education.

3. Evaluate the content: Does the proposal cover ground-breaking areas of research, new and exciting developments, or cross-cutting activities in support of science, technology, or education? Does it present new or innovative ideas to attendees? Is it a policy-related proposal that addresses issues of significant importance to research, funding, or collaboration, either globally or nationally? Consider overall merit and the importance of including the proposed session in the program as well as whether the content is too specialized.

4. Evaluate the participants: Are they of a caliber to speak authoritatively on their topic? Is the panel composed of diverse organizations and institutions? Are the presentations integrated and coherent as a group? Does the panel present a balanced perspective?

Click below to start your submission

Submission Deadline:
11:59pm PDT, Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Login Area for a Previous Submission

View/Edit/Withdraw a Symposium:
Symposium ID#
1200 New York Avenue NW    Washington, DC 20005    Phone: 202-326-6400       E-mail: webmaster@aaas.org