Rapid Call for Virtual Session Proposals

The submission portal has now closed. The ASTC Conference Program Planning Committee will be reviewing the submitted proposals over the coming weeks and will inform session authors before the end of September. Please contact sessions@astc.org with any questions.

The Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) Annual Conference is one of the premier annual events for science-engagement professionals across North America and around the world. Each year, this event brings together thousands of science and technology center and museum and allied professionals working in science communication, STEM learning, and the broader intersections between science, technology, and society.

Well into planning for this year’s Annual Conference—and after session proposals were submitted—the world was turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting severe economic disruption, and a renewed sense of urgency to address systemic racism and long-standing systems of oppression, privilege, and power that maintain inequity.

Needless to say, the in-person convening originally planned could not go forward and has been replaced with a virtual conference that will take place entirely online October 19–21, with ASTC Preconference Intensives October 13–16.

Moreover, none of the many excellent session proposals that would lead to stimulating discussion and help to advance our field were submitted with awareness of what we would be experiencing as a field, as a professional community, and as a society. To better meet the current moment, we are issuing this new call for conference session proposals that specifically address the individual, organizational, and societal challenges we are now facing.

With the theme of “New Frontiers in Science, Technology, Learning, and Community Engagement toward a more Equitable Tomorrow,” ASTC’s virtual conference will explore the future of our institutions, our work, and our impact in our communities. We will look specifically through the lens of our most urgent concerns regarding the overlapping public health, economic, and moral crises—and the implications they have for our work, our organizations, and our communities. Learn more about our conference theme.

We are seeking session proposals that clearly address one or more of the topics listed below:

  • The public health crisis of COVID-19, with its disparate impacts regionally and among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and low-income communities
  • The economic crisis, which has caused our organizations to explore new business models, funding sources, and operational strategies
  • The moral crisis as individuals, organizations, and communities are reckoning with long-standing systemic racism and anti-Blackness
  • Reimagining the future of the work of science and technology centers and museums and other science engagement and science learning organizations

Submissions may address any topic relevant to science and technology centers and museums and the broader fields of informal science learning and public engagement in science, but should consider our current circumstances, capabilities, and priorities. ASTC welcomes proposals from inside and outside the science center field that help advance our shared vision of increasing understanding of—and engagement with—science among all people.

Due to the competitive nature of this call for proposals, your proposal must include the following:

  • Address one or more of the ASTC Virtual 2020 Annual Conference topics
  • Describe effective audience engagement strategies through a virtual platform (online chat, Q&A, polls, breakout discussions)
  • Demonstrate how/why this presenter(s) is best positioned to facilitate a session on this topic

Due to the limited number of concurrent sessions, speakers are limited to presenting at only one session during the 2020 Annual Conference, and each session may have a maximum of four presenters.

Given the virtual nature of this year’s conference, we especially encourage you to include speakers who might not normally be able attend the ASTC Annual Conference in person, including junior staff, former staff, community representatives, and those outside of our field.

Commitment to Engaging Diverse Perspectives

ASTC is committed to promoting topics, viewpoints, and presenters representing varied perspectives in as many sessions as possible. As a diverse organization representing science and technology centers and museums and allied organizations of all sizes, types, and geographies, we embrace the rich diversity found among our members, their staff, and the communities we serve, including in ability, age, color, ethnicity, race, family or marital status, sex, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, pregnancy and related medical conditions, language, national origin, political affiliation, religion, socioeconomic status, veteran status, health status, and other dimensions of diversity.

In addition to including a variety of ideas and perspectives in your content, to the extent possible we strongly recommend that session proposals include presenters who represent one or more of the following:

  • diverse individual backgrounds
  • multiple types of institutions
  • museums of all sizes
  • different career stages
  • organizations across a geographic span
  • different topical viewpoints

Quick Guide to submitting a session proposal

The ASTC Conference Program Planning Committee (CPPC), along with the ASTC staff, evaluates all proposals submitted for the conference. The information that you include in your submission through our online portal will be used by the reviewers to understand your proposal and what the proposed session will offer attendees, help ASTC promote your session, and guide attendees to the sessions most relevant to them. Below is a brief outline of what is required in your submission. To preview the proposal form, download this sample submission.

  • Session Title: A brief and descriptive explanation of your session.
  • Session Description: This is the primary element of your proposal that the reviewers will use to evaluate your session. A 500-word description of your session, including a summary of the topic and of the information, takeaways, benefits, or lessons that you expect participants to gain. This should focus on outcomes for participants—you have opportunities to describe format and other elements below.
  • Session Leaders and Presenters: The names, titles, and organizational affiliations for the people organizing the session, presenting, and facilitating discussions.
  • Your perspective: Briefly describe the experience or knowledge of the presenter(s) on the topic. This will help reviewers better understand the perspective and experience of the presenter(s). 
  • Conference Track: One of five conference tracks that best describes the major content focus of your session. This will be used to organize session descriptions so attendees can easily find the content most relevant for them.
    • Leadership and Professional
    • Business Operations, Marketing, and Development
    • Content and Design
    • Informal Education and Lifelong Learning
    • External Collaborations, Putting Community First, and Co-Creation
  • Topical Tags: Up to three Topical Tags that provide additional information on what will be discussed during your session. Tags will be used by the reviewers in assessing the range of content across the program and will be searchable by attendees, helping them find the sessions most relevant to them.
  • Target Audience: One of four audience “levels” that describes the target audience for your session, from early career to experienced executive to a universal audience. Evaluators will use audience levels to determine the mix of sessions at the conference, and attendees will use them to find sessions most appropriate for their professional development.

Submitting a Proposal

Proposals must be submitted via the portal by Saturday, August 22, 2020.

The submission portal has now closed. The ASTC Conference Program Planning Committee will be reviewing the submitted proposals over the coming weeks and will inform session authors before the end of September. Please contact sessions@astc.org with any questions.

The original Call for Proposals contains additional context on the conference and proposals.

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