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    Conference Volunteer Responsibilities and Best Practices

    The responsibilities of being a Conference Chair, Program Committee member, or Session Chair are crucial to the success of SPIE events, and it is our incredible volunteers who are the true engine of the Society. On behalf of the Board of Directors and the entire staff of SPIE, THANK YOU for volunteering your time and dedication-we truly could not do this without you.

    We have included general information below, but since information can vary by conference, specific information can be found by clicking on the "For Chairs/Committees" link within a specific conference. You will also receive specific conference information from the SPIE Conference Program Coordinator for the meeting.

    Interested in Volunteering?
    Conference Chair Responsibilities
    Program Committee Responsibilities
    Session Chair Responsibilities
    Inviting Speakers
    Resources for Conference Volunteers

    If you have any questions or concerns at any point along the way, please don't hesitate to contact your Conference Program Coordinator.


    Interested in Volunteering?

    SPIE continually seeks new ideas for conferences and actively looks for outstanding technical individuals to chair them. SPIE staff work closely with Symposium and Program Chairs to develop new conferences and to find qualified Conference Chairs. The Conference Chairs then invite/confirm their Technical Committee Members and are encouraged to have broad geographical representation on the committee, as well as representation from universities, industry, early career professionals, and the government, when possible. 

    If you are interested in becoming a Conference Chair or serving on a Technical Committee, or would like more information, please contact the Conference Program Coordinator.


    Conference Chair

    Chairs are confirmed by SPIE. They are responsible for securing an active program committee, creating a Call for Papers, reviewing submissions, organizing sessions, assigning session chairs, presiding over the conference at the meeting, and reviewing proceedings manuscripts.

    Conference chairs are expected to demonstrate highest level of professional behavior at all times and they are asked to ensure that the volunteers they enlist to participate also conduct themselves professionally and ethically.

    For a conference that is part of an established grouping or track involving other conferences, the Chair must be aware of the most closely related conferences and liaise with those chairs to minimize subject overlap and/or arrange for joint sessions.

    Chairs will encourage manuscript submission and expedite review of papers for a volume of SPIE Proceedings, involving program committee members as appropriate, and also contribute an Introduction for the conference proceedings volume. Proceedings are a critical component of the conference experience. Without proceedings, the value of the conference experience is undermined, as is our ability to disseminate valuable information to the global photonics community, a key element of SPIE's mission.

    Chairs may continue to serve if their conference is thriving and they have the support of the program committee. However, Chair rotation is encouraged to keep content current and generate fresh ideas.

    Your Conference Program Coordinator will provide you with due dates for the Call for Papers and Conference Technical Program for your specific conference. Adhering to the due dates/deadlines so that we can promote the meeting and send author notifications is critical to the success of your conference!


    Program Committee

    The program committee is formed by the conference chair(s). A well-structured program committee will have a range of expertise to span the subject area, including well-established and recognized leaders in the field from academia, government, and industry as appropriate. The inclusion of early career professionals is encouraged; ideally, there should also be a good international spread in the affiliations. The inclusion of ‘big names' as a draw is encouraged only if these individuals agree to play a significant active role in the conference.

    The role of the program committee is to give direction to the conference, support and help to publicize it, suggest speakers to be invited, and participate in the review processes (both abstract and manuscript) as assigned by the chair. Members of the program committee may also organize and chair specific conference sessions, though the latter role is not limited to committee members.

    Program committee members who are essentially inactive will be rotated off after two or three successive occasions exhibiting negligible involvement, in the interests of efficiency and to make space for new committee members.


    Session Chair

    Chairs will either act as a session chair, or assign session chairs to make sure that the conference runs smoothly. Chairs will distribute the speaker tracking forms to the session chairs. Session chairs will introduce the session topic, speakers, maintain the schedule, and be prepared for the unexpected.

    If a speaker fails to appear, the session chair will be prepared to fill the open time with a standby paper, discussion topics, question and answer session, or an open discussion session. Moving papers to new times is not an option, as attendees make their plans to see talks based on the published schedule and room signs.

    The number one complaint from attendees is that the paper they came to see was not presented at the scheduled time, causing them to miss it.

    After the sessions, chairs and/or session chairs will hand in the speaker tracking forms to the Registration Desk or Speaker Check-In Desk.


    Invited Speakers

    Invitations sent by chairs (or committee members) to individuals to attend the conference will clearly indicate whether it is a general encouragement to attend, or the offer of a specifically designated invited or keynote lecture. Invitations for designated invited or keynote lectures should have prior approval by a chair.

    Chairs will inform invited and keynote speakers of their responsibility to register at the author rate. We do not have a general travel fund. Some conferences have a small fund to waive the registration fee for speakers in need who have not received support from SPIE in the past. Please send fee waiver requests to the SPIE conference program coordinator for evaluation.

    The number of specifically invited speakers should not be disproportionate with the number of contributed papers; ideally, no more than one or two invited talks in each session. Invited speakers should be asked to give a broader perspective presentation, opening up a particular area of the subject to non-specialists.

    Members of the organizing committee will not routinely be invited or keynote speakers, nor will an invited speaker normally be asked to return as an invited speaker within two years of having this role at the same conference.


    Resources for Conference Volunteers

    SPIE distinguishes itself by providing the highest level of staff assistance to our volunteers. Our experienced staff are available to support chairs and program committee member in the development and execution of their conference.

    An SPIE conference program coordinator will work closely with each chair throughout the program process to answer all questions, guide the chair through each step in the process, and provide information that will help the chair make the conference as successful as possible.

    An SPIE proceedings coordinator will work with the chair to make the conference proceedings volume as successful and complete as possible.

    Chairs will contact staff with any questions, requests, or information, as they are the best resource for the entire program and proceedings process.

    Information about each part of the process is also available online for each meeting from the "For Chairs and Committees" link on each meeting webpage.

    We encourage your feedback on how we can make the information and resources provided more clear, complete, and helpful. Our goal is to make the experience of organizing a conference with SPIE a rewarding one. Thank you for participating.