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The Art of Program Production

April 30 2013 by Robert Dziuban

By Ernest L. Hall, MSA President

At the end of March, the Program Committee for Microscopy & Microanalysis 2013, along with much of the leadership of the Microscopy Society of America, the Microanalysis Society, and the International Metallographic Society, gathered in Indianapolis, IN over a long weekend to put together the technical program for the meeting.   Program Chair Teresa Ruiz was in charge, with the able assistance of MSA Vice Chair David Bell, MAS Co-Chair Emmanuelle Marquis, and IMS Co-Chair Coralee McNee. 

The annual effort to produce the M&M meeting program actually begins several years before the meeting.  The Program Chair is chosen at least 3 years before the meeting, the budget is approved 18 months before, and the symposia and their organizers are in place at least a year ahead of time.  At the end of the previous M&M meeting, activity begins in earnest.  Invited speakers are chosen for the symposia and information is gathered in order for the Call for Papers to be shipped with the November issue of Microscopy Today.  The symposium organizers work hard between then and the paper submission deadline in late February to attract the best researchers and papers to the meeting.  Once paper submission closes, there is intense activity utilizing the entire Program Committee, nearly 100 symposium organizers and other members, to group the over 1000 invited and contributed papers into symposia and sessions to form a coherent program.

The Program Production Meeting (PPM) ritual in late March has been going on ever since the origins of the M&M meeting in the early 1940s.  I first got involved in the mid-1980s, and back then, we would copy each paper, cut off the top with the title and authors, and paste them onto a sheet to construct the session (for you younger members, this is the literal origin of “cut and paste”).  Times, days, session chairs, etc. were added by hand, and in the end someone typed the whole assembly to make the program book.  Now, of course, it is handled through a database, managed by our Database Administrator Stuart McKernan, and coupled in with our Proceedings and Program publisher Cambridge University Press.

Despite the automation, the PPM is a very busy time.  Organizers are putting the finishing touches on symposia and creating contributed sessions; the Society Presidents are choosing student, post-doc, and professional technical staff award papers; the Proceedings and Program editors (John Shields and Richard Edelmann) are making their preparations; Meeting Manager Nicole Guy is serving as host and organizing the non-technical program; and through it all the Executive Program Committee, comprised of Teresa and her Co-Chairs, are trying to fit it all together into the best program possible.

As a break in the action, the attendees are able to tour the convention facilities where the meeting will be held.  This is always exciting as we envision where the various sessions and other activities will take place and ensure that we have planned correctly.  This year, the tour was made much more exciting by the presence of the State of Indiana High School Girls’ Volleyball Tournament,  and at one point a few of the key Society leaders were nearly beheaded by an errant volleyball.  Those are serious players!

During our time in Indianapolis, I was extremely pleased with the city as a meeting venue, as I know you will be.  The convention center, hotels, and restaurants, as well as parks and other attractions, are all very close together in a clean and welcoming environment.  Many of the improvements put in place to host Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 are still evident.  As a veteran of over 35 M&M meetings, I know a good city when I see one!

We hope you will be able to attend M&M 2013, and take a moment to appreciate the work that went into the program.  We were very pleased this year that within a week after the PPM we were able to produce the Advance Meeting Guide and Schedule, containing the Week-At-A-Glance, which went out with the May issue of Microscopy Today.  By the time you read this, the complete Scientific Program should be available on the meeting website.  All of this is possible due to the work of many, many people, but first and foremost among those is our tireless and talented Program Chair, Teresa Ruiz.

We’ll all see you in Indianapolis!

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