Part 3: Putting together the programme 

Assembling an exciting and inspiring programme which contains ‘something for everyone’ that AMEE conference delegates have come to expect is a tricky business. In 2023 we received over 6,000 abstracts of which around 1,000 can be accommodated in the programme. In the final blog in this series, we’ll explain how the programme is put together, and how we try to ensure the process is fair and transparent.  

Determining how many presentations will be allocated within each theme. 

Based on the overall number of submissions made in each theme, the programme committee determines how many presentation slots will be awarded to each topic – this can vary significantly from year-to-year based on global trends. 

To illustrate how this process works, imagine that 4,000 abstracts are received in total and there are 1,000 presentation slots in the programme. If 100 of the submitted abstracts are within the theme of ‘faculty development’, that represents 2.5% of the total submissions equivalent to 25 presentation slots. If each presentation session can house 8 presenters, we would be aiming to offer 3 sessions in the programme with a total of 24 presentation slots.  

This process is complicated by two factors: firstly, the balance of submission types within each category – for example, we can accommodate many e-Posters but very few symposia; and secondly, a number of conference sessions being pre-allocated to topics of particular relevance to conference delegates – for example, each of our theme committees has its own symposium. Returning to our example, if 10 of the submitted abstracts were in the ‘symposium’ category, we would only be able to accept one, and this would need to be substantively different from the Faculty Development Committee’s own symposium. Of the remaining 90, if 45 were workshop proposals we could accept perhaps 2 or 3 of these. However, of 20 short communications and 25 e-poster abstracts we would be able to offer 20 presentation slots (8 SC and 12 e-posters). 

Because of this imbalance in programme space, some submission types are considered independently of their theme – all research paper abstracts are sent to the research committee for example, and symposia are selected by the programme committee.  

Selection of abstracts within each theme 

After determining how many spaces are available in the programme for each theme, all remaining abstracts within the theme are sent to a themed sub-committee tasked with selecting which of the submitted abstracts will be included in the final programme. In the example above, the sub-committee would be the AMEE Faculty Development Committee, but where no AMEE committee exists, the programme committee appoints a sub-committee with relevant expertise.  

The sub-committee is provided with all of the abstracts submitted in their theme, sorted by submission type and ranked by average score. They can also see individual reviewer scores and feedback comments. This step ensures that decisions are not made solely based on reviewer scores, but rather on the need to create a balanced and engaging collection of content within the theme – i.e. if two abstracts score very highly but are extremely similar, it is likely that one will be rejected in favour of a slightly lower-scoring abstract which has more to offer in terms of provoking debate. Each sub-committee is composed of content-experts who can also mitigate in situations where the reviewers disagree wildly about the suitability of an abstract for inclusion. 

Abstracts marked as being particularly relevant to postgraduate education or CPD are considered twice, once by the PG / CPD committees and, if not selected for inclusion in these tracks, again by the appropriate themed subcommittee. Larger and more generic themes, such as ‘teaching and facilitating learning’ are considered by the main programme planning committee, who will also receive all of the abstracts rejected within the more specialist themes for further consideration. 

In addition, we also reserve space in the programme for topics we consider to be of global importance, for example, sustainability and inclusivity, for which we tend to receive relatively few abstract submissions. Submitters of abstracts in these areas are therefore less likely to find themselves crowded out of the programme by more ‘popular’ topics. 

Once all of the available spaces in the programme have been filled, the programme planning committee reviews those abstracts which were rejected in the “Short Communications and ePosters” category to determine whether they were rated highly enough by reviewers to be offered an ‘on-demand’ presentation slot. This year, we’ve also allowed presenters to opt for ‘on-demand’ at the point of submission, in recognition that some people actually prefer to upload a pre-recorded version of their presentation which will then be available to the widest possible audience, both during and post-conference. 

We’re always open to fresh ideas about how we could make our processes as fair and transparent as possible, and the best way to strike a balance between showcasing experts in the field and ensuring there is space for new voices to join the conversation. We’d love to hear from you and you can contact us on [email protected]

Link to Part 1

Link to Part 2