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Open a call for proposed abstracts

The second phase of collecting proposed sessions and abstracts for a conference

Zack Schwartz avatar
Written by Zack Schwartz
Updated over a week ago

The following tutorial is the third article in a series that walks you through the collection of proposed sessions and abstracts through OpenWater. Before reading this article, make sure you have first read the introduction and the open call for sessions.

Putting out an open call for abstracts generally takes place after your team has chosen which sessions your conference will be comprised of.

The call for abstracts will be setup as a separate program from the call for sessions. There are some special considerations when setting up this program, and we will detail those below.

The process for collecting the abstracts commonly follows this pattern:

  • Individual logs in and opens the submission form.

  • They complete all required information for their abstract and presenters.

  • (optional) Abstracts are reviewed and scored by a committee. 

  • Approved abstracts are forwarded to another round. The applicants are notified that their abstract has been approved and that they should login and confirm that they are attending the conference and to upload the full paper submission.

  • Abstracts are then assembled into sessions by either the administrators or session organizers.

The step for assembling abstracts into sessions sometimes take place earlier in the process. This depends on the customer.

Add your program

Add your call for abstracts program if it does not already exist and give it a name. Since this program is separate from the call for sessions, we recommend giving it a title of '2018 Annual Conference - Call for Abstracts' or something similar.

If your workflow requires that accepted applicants log back in and upload the full paper submission of their presentation and other key details, you will need to add a subsequent Submission + Judging Round.

After adding your program, you should find it in your dashboard along with the call for sessions program like so:

Setup your submission form

Build your submission form by following our submission form guide.


Let us pause for a moment and discuss the importance of categories when configuring your call for abstracts program. How you plan your categories will depend largely on what flexibility you wish to provide to your session organizers when they assemble abstracts into sessions. The following scenarios are referring to the session organizer:

  • Session organizer can only review abstracts submitted to their session.

In this scenario, categories should be setup as the full list of approved sessions for your conference. Your applicants will then choose which session they want to participate in when submitting their abstract.

  • Session organizer can review and pull abstracts into their session from general topic areas.

In this case, it is not important for the applicant to submit to a specific session, but rather a general conference topic. If a session is assigned to one of these general topics, the session organizer can review any abstract in those categories and choose which ones should participate in their session.

  • Session organizer can pull abstracts into their session from a general pool of abstracts that do not belong to any particular session or topic area.

If an applicant feels none of the available sessions or topic areas are relevant to the topic they wish to present, you can allow them to submit to a general pool. Session chairs can pull from this general pool, or new sessions can be created out of abstracts from the general pool. If you allow this, add a category called General Pool or General Session, or Undecided / Place me anywhere -- use terminology that your applicants will be familiar with.

Below is a screenshot from a scenario where applicants are submitting directly into approved conference sessions along with a general pool option:

Here is another example where the categories are the presentation type as a parent category and general conference topics as sub-categories:

Reviewing Abstracts (Optional)

Some conferences have a committee that review the abstracts, even before they become available to session organizers. The results of this review will determine which abstracts are allowed to become presentations at the conference.

Abstracts Selection

Once your review of the proposed abstracts have been completed, you are ready to assemble the approved abstracts into sessions.

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