Guidelines for the preparation of IAME’s annual conferences

Guidelines for the preparation of IAME’s annual conferences

 

This document provides guidelines and some recommendations for prospective organizers and/or institutions when preparing an annual IAME conference (from the bid to the final preparation). The topics included and discussed are by no means exhaustive but provide guidance to submit sound proposals to the IAME Council. Primarily the document includes some information and suggested areas to be considered when compiling a conference proposal and the costing of a conference. In addition, this document raises some important issues which reach beyond conference organisation and bid proposals as they directly involve the IAME Association and its Council. In particular, we refer to the potential establishment of Special Interests Groups (SIG) and to the definition of a clear evaluation framework that should be used by the Council for evaluating conference bids.

The purpose of these guidelines is not to provide a fully restrictive document but to build a “concept” of IAME Conference that can be updated/shaped over time thanks to the inputs of previous organizers as well as IAME members. Indeed, in order to create a recognizable “format” of Annual Conference (for marketing purpose), some major (“compulsory”) points indicated in the guidelines must be reasonably addressed by organizers, whereas many others could remain optional and at the discretion of organizers.

At discretion of the Council, a “bid proposal template” could be also attached as part of these guidelines. In such a way, all candidates would stand on the same level, because contents would be defined in advance. This approach also allows for immediate comparisons between proposals since we target the information on the same page in all proposals. We might even limit the number of pages.

 

These guidelines are divides into two parts. Part 1 is related to the bidding and awarding procedure, whereas Part 2 concerns the preparation and organization of the conference.

 

 

1. Bidding and Awarding Procedure

Preparation of the Bid

For this purpose, a good proposal should roughly stand between 15 and 25 pages, although the format is not restrictive. When preparing the proposal, organizers have to take into account that the inclusion of some information is strictly compulsory whereas other contents are discretionary. Full details are provided in Annex 1.

 Proposal submission

Proposals should be forwarded to the IAME Secretariat from where it will be distributed to the President and Council. It is suggested that the proposals are sent electronically to the IAME Secretariat. Additional material can be mailed to the Secretariat or distributed at the time of the conference. Hosting and organizing a conference is a time consuming and demanding task and it is recommended that organizers allow 2 years for the preparation, organization and staging of the event. For further information please contact the Secretariat or the President.

It is suggested that the proposal to host a conference be received at least two months before IAME conference and Council meeting. This will allow Council members to familiarize themselves with the content of the bids before the Council meeting. It will also allow Council members unable to attend the conference meeting to have input in the selection process of future conference locations. Those proposed organizers who have submitted a proposal will be invited to make a presentation to the Council before a decision is made. The presentation may include information on conference venues, locations, distribution of brochures, support and estimated conference sponsorship.

Proposals to host an IAME conference are assessed by the IAME Council. The IAME Council meets annually during the conference period. It has been Council’s practice in recent years to evaluate and assess proposals for no more than two years in advance.

The Association should make available a template for bidding proposals specifying compulsory topics to be defined (see Annex 1), voluntary initiatives that can be taken by organizers.

Criteria for evaluating bids

Traditionally after sending formal bids to the IAME Council the organizing teams are invited to present their proposal during the Annual Council meeting. After all presentations the council opens a discussion for debating the point of strengths and weaknesses of different proposals. If a Council member is formally involved in one of the bid he/she cannot take part in the discussion nor, of course, in the subsequent vote.

The identification of the winning bidder is always a quite tough process that needs to take into account different “variables”. From the experience derived from previous evaluation processes it seems to be appropriate to make the entire process more “standardized” and transparent. Another highly relevant point is the content of the feedback provided to the bidders that are not selected. A feedback of good quality is important for allowing to losers a clear understanding of the reasons for the decision taken. This approach would stimulate other attempts in the future by those bidders who have not been selected in previous evaluation processes.

In regard to the above, the Council should define a clear template for evaluating proposals in order to rank bids in a transparent and straightforward way. The final score could be composed by (the sum of) quantitative “indicators” and also by qualitative “indicators” or evaluations. It is therefore recommendable the preparation of an “evaluation framework” (see Annex 2) for defining the criteria through which proposals are scrutinized and ranked.

Council may also appoint a working group that assists Council in the preparation of the comparative tables and evaluations. A written evaluation may help Council in the process, and it may subsequently help Council to explain the decision making process and the final choice to the bidders.

2. Preparation and Organization of the Conference

The conference organizer and host

While the conference is an annual event and is an IAME conference organized for the benefit of the Association’s members, it is not an event organized by the Association. IAME endorses and supports the conference as an official IAME meeting, in the understanding that it is a conference organized for IAME members, only (with the exception of local VIPs, key-note speakers and other invited participants). However, IAME does not assume organizational nor financial responsibility for the conference.

Each year the conference is held in a different location, organized and hosted by a different institution or alliance/group of institutions.

Although host institutions are generally universities this is not a requirement of the Association – the conference can be hosted by a university, a government department, a private sector body or by an alliance of organizations operating in relevant areas. The IAME conference held in Santiago (Chile) in 2011, for example, was jointly organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) (host), the Transport Research Institute (TRI) at Edinburgh Napier University, and ITMMA at the University of Antwerp.

Conference theme and tentative list of topics

As the IAME has membership not only from maritime economists but also from diverse disciplines and professions catering inter alia for researchers, policy-makers and operators from maritime and related disciplines, it is suggested that a conference theme be adopted. In addition, organizers have to draft a list of potential topics, taking into account both traditional themes and “emerging” ones, that could attract the audience of academics and practitioners. A preliminary definition of the topics also helps in the subsequent setting of program tracks.

While a conference theme should not limit the possibilities of IAME members to present and share their research in the realm of maritime economics, experience has shown that a conference theme for plenary sessions and keynote presentations may help focus and increase interest in the conference from a wider audience.

International Scientific Steering Committee

The formation of a strong International Scientific Steering Committee (ISCC) is an important ingredient for having a successful and high quality IAME Conference. Therefore, in defining its composition, it is necessary to undertake a concerted effort to increase the coverage of the ISSC, its topic depth and the quality of its output (the decision made by the ISSC on which papers to accept). Based on past experience, some recommendations are the following:

  • The ISSC may consist of 25 persons not counting the Chair.
  • There must be full geographic diversity with usually not more than one person per institution or preferably not more than two per country. All continents should be represented for making ISSC truly global.
  • A number of spaces (from three to five) should be awarded to young researchers, those with less than five years post-PhD.
  • There must be diversity of specialization, so that all topic areas have at least one person able to make decisions on that topic.

Conference organizers might also constitute other Committees for taking care of specific tasks, such as 
review committee, award committee, and so on.

Sponsorship

Conference organizers are recommended to obtain financial support and sponsorship for their conference. Sources of sponsorship is likely to be influenced by the organizer’s contacts but can be from the host university, from industry – shipping companies and ports, for example, or government departments.

Remember that the conference is self-funded and that its financial success is likely to depend on levels of sponsorship. Losses incurred by the conference organizer and host cannot be subsidized by the IAME.

The conference organizer and host determine the type of financial support. This can be in the form of a grant to help fund the conference, sponsoring a conference dinner or lunch; funding proceeding publications or printing brochures.

While the IAME does not provide financial support for the conference or subsidize losses, it will provide support of a different nature. It will aid the organizer in providing information on membership and other contacts, promote the conference in the Association’s Newsletter, update material on the IAME web and social networks, send out global e-mails on behalf of the organizer etc. etc.

As the IAME does not provide financial support to the conference organizer, it does not expect a financial contribution to be made to the Association, nor a sharing of the proceeds in the event that a profit is made. Any profit made is for those taking the risk – the conference organizer.

Conference fees

The conference organizer determines the attendance fee for delegates. Sponsorship is one way of keeping charges to a minimum. As the organizer wants to avoid incurring a loss, the conference fee should be set to cover all conference costs. This will include the cost of venue hire, catering as well as other costs including printing of brochures, publication of proceedings, photographers and many incidentals such as transport hire for delegates transporting them to dinners, technical (port) visit etc. The gala dinner should be reasonably included in the conference fees, although a final decision on this has to be taken by organizers. It is also suggested that prospective conference organizers contact organizers of past conferences who will be able to assist in sharing their experience.

When setting the conference fee it has been the custom to set these at a number of levels. These include rates for:

  • IAME members
  • IAME non-members, and
  • Student/retiree rates.

 

In the event that attendees are non-IAME members the conference organizer is requested to add a “surcharge” (set at discretion of organizers but not less than the cost of a one-year membership) to the conference fee. This additional amount constitutes one-year membership fee of the IAME (i.e., 12 months from the date of the conference). In the case of student and retirees this additional charge should be lower, again in line with the IAME membership fee for students and retirees. This means that all delegates attending the conference are, de facto, IAME members.

The conference organizer is requested to provide the non-member delegate with a membership application form when registering for the conference. This will be provided by the Secretariat. The information regarding the new IAME members, together with the membership fees collected by the conference organizer, are forwarded to the IAME Secretariat.

Explanatory note: experience has shown that for several IAME members it is preferable to pay their IAME membership as part of the conference registration fee, because the employer (e.g. university) may be willing to cover the financial costs of the conference registration, but not necessarily the individual IAME membership fee. It is for this reason that IAME requests conference organizers to include the IAME membership fee in the conference fee for non-members, thus ensuring that the IAME conference remains a members-only conference.

Conference website

In these days, marketing and “image”, especially on the Web, are more and more important for growing the reputation of the Association and its recognisability. Therefore, conference organizers are encouraged to use a similar template (provided by the Association, or the previous organizers) for building their own Conference website. Such template may represent a frame of reference for organizers, which of course are also invited to add to the basic compulsory (e.g., introduction to the conference, venue, key dates, etc.) contents a number of voluntary items and information. The website structure and appearance should remain similar, in order to improve IAME visibility and make the event more recognizable year by year by practitioners (who are not necessarily familiar with conferences and academic institutions) and the academics working outside our association. Conference websites and locations change over time whereas the IAME association is always the same.

Conference Online Management System (COMS)

The presence of an efficient Conference Online Management System (COMS) is of fundamental importance for managing submission and review process and making a conference successful. In this regard, the IAME Association could buy its own COMS portal for amortizing costs year by year and have a product with a higher degree of customization. The Organizers of each Conference could pay the Association for the use of the COMS system. Probably the final cost should be lower than in case of bargaining different COMS year by year. Over the last year, Conference organizers started to use the same COMS system and therefore it seems that we are (informally) heading to this direction.

Paper format and quality standards

The organizers are invited to use the same template each year (just a different logo is needed) in order to make submission easier.

One of the aims of the conference organizers is to ensure that the best papers presented at the conference are published in top scholarly journals. This strategy will increase the attractiveness of IAME and enhance membership experience. Conference Guidelines therefore should also indicate that Council has the right to determine the standards that will be set for papers accepted. Conference organizers should be committed to providing a quality program, following some (minimum) quality standards that need to be set for papers accepted. At least two reviewers should be appointed both for abstract and full paper review. Like in recent IAME Conferences (Marseille 2013, Norfolk 2014), an articulated scoring system should be defined in the COMS, using a 5-point Likert scale of evaluation (Annex 5). Abstracts and full papers above an average score of 3 can be reasonably accepted, whereas academic works below this threshold can be accepted only under the condition of a major (and substantial) revision. For instance, the following scoring system could be set up for the paper reviews (1=low and 5=high) on the following criteria:

  • Mastery of the relevant literature
  • Intellectual quality
  • Ambiguous (1) versus clear (5) contribution
  • Quality of the written English
  • Contribution to scholarly knowledge
  • Of interest to practitioners (relevance)

The reviewing process is best managed using the reviewer database realized by prior conference organizers.

Management of deadlines

In the tradition of IAME Conferences, there are two deadlines, one for submitting abstracts and one for full papers. Probably we need that organizers are a bit stricter in asking authors to respect deadlines.

One of the advantages of the double deadline system (abstracts and then full papers) is that it allows to commit people and, above all, make organizers (roughly) aware of the number of potential delegates registering to the conference. However, in practice the number of full papers has been much lower than the number of abstracts. This means that the dual system does not help so much in that respect. Therefore, we could even consider taking just one final deadline for full papers. In such a way, people missing the abstract deadline still could stay “onboard”. This point might be decided at Council level or, alternatively, we could leave the final decision to each organizing team. Another advantage of also reviewing abstracts is that it helps authors to avoid surprises in case their topic is considered outside the scope of the conference.

Proposed conference venue

The conference location can be at either a hotel with conference facilities or at a university, or indeed a mix of both. For instance, the very successful conference held in Izmir in 2005, utilized a mix of hotel and campus locations.

When preparing a proposal to host a conference it is recommended that an appropriate venue is selected. This means that the venue chosen must have suitable conference facilities capable of catering for different size groups. It will be found that the opening and closing ceremonies might require a conference hall with a theatre style seating capacity of 250 – 300 delegates. A number of smaller rooms will also be required to accommodate the different conference streams. Depending on the number of delegates registered up to 3 smaller rooms, capable of seating up to 50 delegates, preferably with class room style seating arrangement, will also be required.

In addition, the selected hotel venue must also be able to cater for delegates’ accommodation needs. Furthermore, it is suggested that the conference organizer also provides information on alternative, less expensive, but conveniently located accommodation in close proximity to the conference venue. This is particularly relevant for students, for example, or others likely to be on a tight budget.

Conference dates

The timing of the conference may be important in order to capture maximum attendance numbers. Most times IAME conferences have been held in the June and July months, but later dates have also been successfully accommodated. The organizer and host ultimately determine the timing of the conference. Conference dates have varied although they generally have favoured the northern hemisphere summers.

Conference communication

Before the conference, it is important to establish an efficient communication channel (by e-mail) with the authors submitting abstracts and papers. It is relevant to provide accurate and timely mass communication for various types of information, e.g. approaching deadlines, themes of special issues associated to the conference, organization of special sessions, data regarding the number of submitted papers, etc. In this regard, the organizers of IAME 2015 conference are providing a good example of accurate and standardized (i.e. with a common format) information released by e-mail to all the potential participants.

Advertising

Once organizers win the bid they have to start advertising the event, with an increasing degree of commitment month by month. Organizers are invited to identify effective communication channels in order to disseminate the “call for papers” also in adjacent academic communities (e.g., logistics, SCM, operations research, management, etc.) and inside each country. Indeed organizers could also target the main transport/logistics associations at continental (North America, EU, etc.) and country-level.

Specific emphasis should be placed on the relationships with the industry. Organizers have to establish more stable relationship with some “special firms” for having their support during the Conference organization (e.g., finance, industry sessions, etc.) as well as helping the team in advertising our academic research and main events (Annual Conference).

Conference program structure

Conference organizers should have the ability to adjust the conference schedule to accommodate industry activities, technical programs and so on after the bid as they are absorbing the financial risk. Traditionally the IAME Conference program is spread out across two and a half/three days. The formula includes plenary sessions at the beginning (welcome speech, keynotes and panellists) and at the end (concluding remarks) of the conference and parallel sessions in between. Given the experience from previous conference it appears quite delicate the positioning of the Council Meeting and of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in the overall program. In particular, for the AGM the risk is to have a scarce participation from members because people already left the Conference (if this event takes place the last day). The organizers are invited to take into account this point and to find a proper solution for stimulating the higher participation as possible, in close consultation with the IAME Council and President. In this regard, invitation to AGM should be sent out in time and organizers need to know the fixed schedule for Council meetings, AGM and so on, as the organizers are paying for the rooms, AV equipment and meals. Each year, the IAME Council should define what these are and thus assist with the conference scheduling.

Besides, the annual Conference traditionally includes the Port Performance Research Network (PPRN) meeting, which has become a relevant academic event inside the program. Traditionally it takes place at the eve of the conference, ensuring no overlapping with the other events.

Given the success in previous conferences, organizers are encouraged to include special academic sessions (thematic) and industry sessions. The former might stimulate the debate around topics of common interests, which could foster the preparation of special issues on academic journals. The latter might facilitate the interaction between practitioners and the academia as well as provide a source of financing for covering the conference budget.

Finally, as happened in Taipei (IAME 2012) and Norfolk (IAME 2014), it could be worth to organize a “Meet the editors” session for enhancing the interaction between the main academic journals related to IAME Association and our members. Other interesting activities could be to offer to young researchers a session for their education, like the “How to Review a Paper”, “How to submit a paper”, “How to deal with rejection”, and so on.

Temporary interest groups and Special Interest Groups (SIGs)

As our community is enlarging and the number of topics is multiplying, organizers could plan to set thematic temporary groups of interest around common topics for each conference. This practice is widely diffused in larger academic communities but also IAME is mature enough to adopt this solution. The establishment of temporary groups of interest should remain “optional” and at the discretion of the organizers. These groups of interest are different from the permanent Special Interest Groups (SIGs) that might be created and governed by the Council in the future.

If the practice of temporary interest groups practice will start to become common in future IAME Conferences, the Council could consider establishing some permanent Special Interest Groups (SIG) inside our scientific community. The establishment of Special Interest Groups (SIGs), indeed, would also provide coherence (year by year) in the definition of the Conference topics around which sessions are organized. Among others, the WCTR and EURAM communities adopt the SIG system. When organizing upcoming conferences, a debate may be opened to understand which special relation(s) (if any) it could be established between the PPRN and various potential SIGs.

Conference proceedings

The conference organizers will determine the format of conference proceedings. In the past, conference proceedings were printed copies sometimes in more than one volume whereas in recent years proceedings on a CD or USB-memory key are definitely preferred. This certainly helps in keeping printing costs down. It is also convenient and easier to carry around – this is particularly relevant when considering that the majority of delegates travel from overseas. It is suggested that organizers add an ISBN number to conference proceedings. This can make the conference more attractive for a number of people, especially for young PhD researchers making their early steps in the academia.

Conference proceedings have to be made available on-line to IAME members, as one of the benefits of the IAME membership payment.

Journal special issues

Traditionally, besides proceedings, conference organizers arrange special issue in a number of journals. First, the two official journals of IAME association, Maritime Policy & Management and Maritime Economics & Logistics, are involved and a number of good papers is selected by the appointed guest editors.

In order to enlarge the IAME audience and to involve people from neighbouring communities, organizers are also invited to contact other leading academic journals both in the maritime and port domain and even in the transport and logistics field. In recent years, there has been a clear trend in this direction as a number of additional journals was involved, e.g. Research in Transportation Business and Management, International Journal of Shipping and Transport Logistics, International Journal of Transport Economics, Transportation Research – Part E, etc.

When negotiating with the journal, the following principles are to be agreed by the publishers. Publication of IAME papers in the selected journals may take the form of special issues or occur as individual papers in normal issues. Journals must accept that mention is made, in the cover of special issues and at the beginning of all papers, of the fact that an earlier version of those papers have initially been presented at the “IAME 20xx conference”.

Conference prizes

It is the custom for the conference organizers to arrange prizes for the best and runner up papers. The number of prizes varies from year to year depending on sponsorship. Palgrave, the publisher of Maritime Economics & Logistics has in previous years provided US$500 prize money for the best conference paper presented. In the past, additional sponsorship monies have been provided by other organizations such as shipping companies. In 2001 Hong Kong conference, for example, Hanjin provided a prize for the best runner up paper. Other awards can be provided at the discretion of organizers (best reviewer, best young research paper, etc.). The reward for the “best reviewers” is particularly encouraged.

Reporting to Council

Organizers at the end of the conference are invited to provide a short report summarizing the main outcomes of the event both from an academic and organizational perspective. In the recent past, IAME 2014 organizers elaborated for the first time a detailed (interim and final) report(s) compiled by the “International Scientific Steering Committee” (ISSC), which provided some guidance and recommendations for future organizers and hosts.

Each conference organizer is to submit a final report to Council on the paper management process and on the number of sessions offered, numbers of conference attendees (members and non-members), papers submitted and presented, and papers submitted for presentation where the presenter failed to show. Each conference organizer is expected to provide a list of conference attendees to the Secretariat for confirmation of membership.

Each Chair of the International Scientific Steering Committee is expected to maintain and enhance the reviewer database already established at IAME 2014 and return it to the IAME Secretariat at the end of the conference, to be of use for future conference organizers.

All organizers at the end of the conference should undertake such initiative and it will serve as a base for updating and improving these guidelines over time.

 

Annexes to these Guidelines:

  1. Proposed contents template for bidding proposals (https://www.mar-economists.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Annex-1-Guidelines-IAME-conferences-April-2016.pdf)
  2. Evaluation framework for IAME annual conference bids (https://www.mar-economists.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Annex-2-Guidelines-IAME-conferences-April-2016.pdf)