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ACM SIGMOD/PODS 2003 Conference

San Diego, California
June 9-12, 2003

SIGMOD Submission Guidelines For Panels

Proposals must be no more than one page. Send your submission electronically (PDF format) to Joe Hellerstein by November 8th (5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time).

Successful panels require a bit of thought and planning. Below are some snippets of advice for panel proposals that were gleaned from recent experience. For any further questions, email Joe Hellerstein.

Format


Broadly speaking, there are three common kinds of panels : (1) debates, (2) round table exchanges, and (3) mini research sessions.

The first category is often constructed artificially, with panelists staking out extreme positions for the sake of generating controversy and highlighting issues. These tend to be entertaining, and hence memorable and discussion-provoking.

If done well, the second category can be thoughtful and substantive, but such discussions can also be dry. Even for such panels, a good topic is one in which there are significant differences of opinions. A proactive moderator can help a lot to keep discussion focused -- watching a thoughtful interviewer like Bill Moyers can be good preparation for that role.

The third kind of panel is a common pitfall, and defeats the purpose of having panel sessions. The panel organizer must be sure to prevent panelists from burning all of the time on presentations. Note that if each panelist presents a 10 minute talk, you can spend the whole panel hearing talks. So it's important to keep the panelists well-behaved. A good way to do this is to severely restrict their formal presentation time (e.g., to 1 slide!), and promise them they can make up new slides on the fly during the discussion. Pens and transparencies can be provided for that purpose.

The Participants


  • Limit the number of participants to at most 5.
  • Make sure all sides of a controversy are represented. Often, people outside the specific area of the panel are very valuable and provide unique insight.
  • Balance the panelists between academicians and practitioners (note that working for an industrial lab does not make one a practitioner).
  • Getting practitioners on the panel is often quite a lengthy process. Start early!
  • A mix of nationalities on the panel is also recommended.

Running The Panel


  • Prepare a list of questions for the panel to address. Have some more questions for the discussion following the presentations.
  • Get the panelists to tell you their positions in advance, so you can ensure balance and controversy. It's usually a good idea to meet and coordinate during the conference.
  • As moderator, make sure to stop panelists at the end of their alloted time. The most common mistake is to let panelists run over time, and therefore not have time for discussion at the end.
  • Remind the panelists that they're not there to give shortened research presentations. Some people will be hostile to this idea ("I just need a few extra slides to make this point clear -- it's very important") Be firm!

Alon Halevy wrote most of this document. Thanks to Peter Buneman, Guy Lohman, Tamer Ozsu and Rajeev Rastogi for sharing their recent experiences.


(updated on Oct. 4th, 2002 by Joe Hellerstein)


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