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03/10/2023

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workshopping workaround

First, I am so sorry this is happening to you, OP! This sounds beyond frustrating.

Second: have you considered organizing a workshop in your area? This is a great way to get a line on your CV while doing some networking, and is a lower-stakes way to receive feedback on your work. If you keep it to a single/half-day event the cost can be low (all you really need is a conference room and some coffee + snacks). And if you aren't able to secure funds for an in-person event, virtual workshops can be no-cost.

Michel

FWIW, the graduate conferences tend to be _a lot_ harder to get I to (and, IMO, they're much more arbitrary).

:)

Marcus, I don't know if this is prudent or helpful as a public comment, but if it's useful please let the OP know that TODAY (3/10) is the deadline for the Long Island Philosophy Society conference, being hosted at St. John's University (Queens, NYC) on April 1.

From what I gather they are not in the business of rejecting papers (mine was accepted within two or three hours of emailing it in!) and I have heard that it is a very friendly environment.

CFP is here: https://philevents.org/event/show/105562

Again I don't know if this is helpful to the OP. But if they are worried about not having enough conferences on their CV, this is a good way to get one in before the school year ends.

successful grad conferencer

"My main thoughts are that I'm not working on very trendy topics, that I'm not engaging with enough very recent secondary literature, or that I'm just not doing enough of a good job on the abstracts."

These are all good things to be thinking about while writing conference submissions.

The bar for a conference paper is much different than the bar for publication, and I wouldn't be too worried about not getting into conferences with your work (so long as your advisor and other professionals think it is good work). A conference referee is looking for a paper that (1) is clearly engaged with important literature and (2) would be an interesting thing for a general audience to talk about. Because of (2), papers that have more subtle or nuanced arguments, and papers that take more work to set up the main point, will be deprioritized over more simplistic (even if bad) arguments.

Hume

I’m also an early modern person. It’s hard to diagnose what’s off about your abstract without seeing it, but here is a structure/template that has worked for me: problem, solution/proposal, and then plan for talk.

First, tell your reader, as plainly and intuitively as you can, what the problem or question you will address is. Is it an interpretive question? A cool philosophical question to pose to figure Y? I do think that some abstracts get rejected because the referee either didn’t understand the problem or thinks the problem or question has been overworked.

Then tell us your proposal or solution. Here, you want to give the reader enough detail so that they can trust that your presentation will be good but not so much detail that only you and your committee will understand your proposal. If your solution is novel or interesting in some other way, here is the place to highlight that.

Finally, give us a roadmap for your talk. Done right, this portion should give the referee assurance that your ideas are sufficiently developed and interesting that the presentation will be philosophical stimulating and enjoyable for the audience to listen to.

I’d also make sure that the writing is polished and reader-facing because one referee has told me that poorly written abstracts are usually among the first that she eliminates. Not hard to see why if you think clear thinking and clear writing go hand in hand.

Julia

Follow Hume's advice. One added point: Add references to your abstract, either with in-text citations that readers in your field will recognize (Fancypants 2022), and/or in a brief reference list at the end. That makes it easier for reviewers to identify whether you are up to date on the relevant literature. No one wants to hear a talk that is out of touch with the current debate on a given topic, and reviewers have to try to assess whether this might be an issue.

Sebastian Lutz

When my submissions got rejected, I sometimes had some success with simply asking the organizers for comments on my abstracts (especially for grad conferences):

I'd write a polite email in which I would first stress that I completely accepted the rejection and was sure that the accepted papers very much deserved being included in the conference, and then asked whether they could spare some time pointing out the most important problem(s) leading to rejection, so that I could improve my submissions in the future. I did not always get a response or comments on the submission, but sometimes I got a few informative lines from a reviewer.

Overseas Tenured

I'm a few years out of grad school, but I think this comment will be relevant. Many people seem to think that getting into grad conferences is easier than getting into regular ones. In my experience, the opposite is true. During my grad school years I easily got my papers accepted to APAs but more often than not got rejected from graduate conferences, many of which I know got over a hundred submissions for 8-10 speaking slots. I had papers that got rejected from several graduate conferences and later landed in top-5 journals. Paradoxically enough, graduate conferences are lower in prestige than the large "regular" ones but probably much harder to get into.

Also tenured overseas

I've run a few conferences/workshops, and I assess abstracts anonymously. But when deanonymised, I often noticed that the grad student ones that got rejected had two related problems: (1) they tried to cover way, way too much ground for a 30-40 minute talk, and (2) they read a bit too much like a plan for a paper that was going to be written, rather than a description of a paper that's already written or at least sketched in detail.

Both of these can lead to the dreaded "speaker running way over time and they aren't even close to making their main point".

PhilyOsopher

This is unusual. The obvious thing to do is speak to your advisor/supervisor. Show them the abstracts and papers.

Formerly Dejected Grad Student

Just a follow-up from the grad student who originally posted this: Thank you for your words of encouragement everyone! I kept on applying to conferences at the suggestion of everyone in this thread, and I've actually been accepted to three conferences since then, one of which is a surprisingly prestigious one! (And for what it's worth, all three of these were "regular" conferences rather than graduate conferences.)

I'm not sure if I've worked out what made the difference, but I found all of the above advice really helpful and tried to incorporate as much of it as possible into my conference proposals. Beyond all that, I don't know how much helpful advice I can give someone else who's in this position other than "just keep trying"!

ari

I'm a few years out of grad school, but I think this comment will be relevant. Many people seem to think that getting into grad conferences is easier than getting into regular ones. In my experience, the opposite is true. During my grad school years I easily got my papers accepted to APAs but more often than not got rejected from graduate conferences, many of which I know got over a hundred submissions for 8-10 speaking slots. I had papers that got rejected from several graduate conferences and later landed in top-5 journals. Paradoxically enough, graduate conferences are lower in prestige than the large "regular" ones but probably much harder to get into.

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