RSECon22 Committee Blog
By Mike Simpson
The Society is currently looking for volunteers to join the Conference Organising Committee for the 2023 RSE Conference. If you’re thinking of applying but want to know more about what’s involved, then you’ve come to the right place.
My name is Mike, I was a member of the 2022 Committee, and my fellow committee members and I have been asked to share our experiences with you.
The Committee is a group of volunteers who are responsible for organising the Society of Research Software Engineering’s annual conference. Each volunteer is responsible for one aspect of the conference, such as the Talks, Workshops, Publicity and Volunteers. There are over a dozen roles available and the full list is included on the Call for Committee Members.
But what kind of commitment are we asking for? And what is it actually like to be on the committee?
Commitment, Responsibilities and Perks
The way that the committee works may vary, but last year we attended regular meetings between January and September. Meetings were usually bi-weekly but became weekly at ‘high-pressure’ times, such as when the Call for Submissions closed or when Registration opened. Between meetings, there were actions that we each agreed to perform and report back on at the next meeting.
You don’t necessarily need any experience to apply. Support will be given by your fellow committee members and the RSE Society. However, you may need permission from your manager/employer, as you will have to give up a few hours a week, on average.
There are perks too. You get free entry into the conference (and a free t-shirt!), and we try to make sure you can attend the talks/workshops of your choice. Bursaries are also available for travel and subsistence. And you won’t just be following orders but will get to have input into how the conference is put together.
So, what is it actually like to take part? Below are accounts from some of the 2022 committee members.
Talks and Panels Chair
Ed Bennett (Senior RSE at Swansea University)
“I led the Talks and Panels Team and also worked closely with the Posters and Workshops/Walkthroughs Chairs. After identifying a suitable platform for managing the review process, we drafted the calls for submissions and reviewers, and put together a robust process for assigning reviewers to submissions. During the review process, we chased reviewers to submit reviews in time to make decisions on acceptance, and after sending out decisions, we co-ordinated with speakers as to whether they would be able to attend and whether they had specific requirements for the venue, and dealt with specific issues such as whether they needed to speak remotely.”
This gives you an idea about some of the responsibilities that a Chair has, as well as the flexibility available (i.e. the ability to select the platform/technologies that are used to manage the event).
Mike Simpson, Poster Chair and Publicity Chair (RSE at Newcastle University)
“As Poster Chair, I worked with the Conference/Programme Chairs to organise the poster events, including the submission and approval process, finding space in the building/timetable for lightning talks, poster session and the prize competition. Then as Publicity Chair, it was my job to share updates on social media and to manage the conference mailing list, including making announcements and promoting registration.
Being on the committee was a great experience, not least because it was an opportunity to bring this amazing conference to my home city. I got to see how a big conference like this is organised and run behind the scenes, and I gained experience in leadership, management and teamwork that will be invaluable in my career. I also got to meet lots of people from the wider RSE movement and raise my profile within that community.
It was quite a lot of work, but it was a fantastic experience, and I would definitely do it again.”
Awards Chair/Workshop Helper
Becky Osselton (Senior RSE at Newcastle University)
“I was initially cautious about joining the conference committee, as organising a large event was something I hadn’t been involved with before. The team were very reassuring that I would be given support, so I felt confident enough to take it on.
The conference was really enjoyable, and I met the wider conference team in person, plus many new people along the way. I would recommend it to others as an experience. It gives you an insight into what goes on behind the scenes and valuable career networking opportunities.”
Finally, I’ve gathered a few choice quotes from my fellow committee members:
- “As an early-career RSE this was a great way to meet other people in the community and play an active and responsible role whilst being able to attend conference sessions and get a wider view of what a career as an RSE can be.”
– Eleanor Broadway, Volunteer Chair (HPC Applications Developer from EPCC at Edinburgh University)
- “It’s a brilliant way to connect with other members of the RSE community outside your own team. It’s really rewarding to see so many people enjoying a conference that you contributed to the organisation of.”
– Ed Bennett
- “Volunteering on the committee meant I got to see ‘behind the scenes’ of organising a big conference, contribute to what happened and meet some great people from the RSE community. The committee was welcoming and I felt supported knowing we were making decisions as a group. I enjoyed seeing how much people appreciated the conference – that was the ultimate reward really!”
– Kate Court, Workshops Chair (Senior RSE at Newcastle University)
Being on the Conference Organising Committee is a big commitment and can be hard work, especially in the run-up to major milestones. But it is also a rewarding experience and a great way of not only making your mark on this amazing event but also of contributing to the wider RSE community.
If you’re still interested, you can find more details or apply here! (or, if you’re reading this in the future, sign up to the mailing list and look out for future Calls for Committee Members)