Below are two messages from the ISHPSSB São Paulo 2017 program
co-chairs, Charbel El-Hani and Jessica Bolker. The first message
encourages graduate students to organize sessions, and the second
message offers guidance to students interested in submitting posters
to the conference. Both messages ask that supervisors of graduate
students help support students who might be interested in either type
of participation.

-Sean Valles, Secretary of ISHPSSB

Message 1:

Dear graduate student ISHPSSB colleagues, and colleagues who supervise them,

If you are a graduate student, this is addressed directly to you; if
you are a supervisor, please share it with your students and encourage
them to participate in the 2017 ISHPSSB meetings!

We are writing to encourage graduate students to consider not just
presenting your own work, but organizing a session at the 2017
meetings in Sao Paulo. ISH has a long tradition of encouraging full
participation by student members, who present oral papers alongside
more senior members of their field; you can strengthen that tradition,
and enhance your own professional visibility, by organizing a session.
You can either develop your own list of people to invite, or use the
virtual Conference Board at the meeting website
( to post ideas for
sessions and recruit/coordinate with colleagues with shared interests.

What’s in it for you? By organizing a session, you can ensure that
your talk will be grouped with those of colleagues – including senior
ones – in your immediate area; you earn a reputation for initiative;
and you gain visibility by acting as organizer and session chair. And
by recruiting your participants early, you can guarantee they will be
speaking in your session, rather than in one that conflicts with it
and splits your audience. You don’t need to have published work on a
topic to organize a session: if you are at the start of a project or
considering a new research direction, this is a great way to get
helpful feedback from others in your field.

Moreover, since organized session submissions are eligible for rolling
acceptances, the earlier you submit an organized session, the sooner
you will hear about acceptance and the more choice you will have about
the scheduling of your session.

Whom to invite: Consider a central theme or question, and whose work
might connect. Of course you can invite people you already know, but
being a session organizer is a great opportunity to reach out to
colleagues whose work you admire, and potential new collaborators.
It’s a chance to expand your network, and bring new and old ISH
members together (including colleagues who’ve never attended ISH
before). Finally, inviting speakers from diverse disciplines can
generate exciting interactions – as well as a bigger audience.

How to do it: It’s never to early to start making inquiries, and you
can review the different possible session formats on the meeting
website ( to help you decide
how you want to organize yours. Then you can contact potential
participants, including links to the website
( This is your chance to
“pitch” your session idea, and as you get commitments, you can include
that information in future messages (“I hope you can join us; Prof.
Plato has already agreed to participate”).

For information on how to get started, or if you have questions, you
can check out the “organized session” section of the conference
website ( -- or feel free to
contact us directly.

Message 2:

If you are a graduate student, this is addressed directly to you; if
you are a supervisor, please share it with your students and encourage
them to participate in the 2017 ISHPSSB meetings!

We are writing to encourage you to consider submitting your work to
the ISHPSSB 2017 conference as a poster. One of us had several
students presenting posters in the last meeting in Montréal. It was a
very good experience! Here are some clear advantages they found:

- ISHPSSB meetings have several parallel sessions. By presenting your
work as a poster, you will have to compete for your audience much less
than if you give a talk.

- More people will be likely to attend your poster than your talk,
again due to the number of parallel sessions. Thus, you will have more
chance to discuss your work with colleagues.

- You will probably be less nervous talking to a few people at a time
about your poster, than if you were facing a full audience in an oral

All that said, you are probably thinking that it is hard to present
philosophical, historical or sociological work as a poster. But
remember, you don’t need to put your whole argument there: you just
need an outline from which you can talk to people about your work.
(Moreover, since biologists are very familiar with the poster format,
this will be a useful tool for communicating with them as well as with
fellow HPS scholars.)

There are many online resources discussing what makes a good or a bad
poster. Here are some links we recommend, if we have convinced you
that a poster will be an exciting and attractive way to present your
work at ISHPSSB 2017:, also linking to advice from
various sources:

Wolcott TG. Mortal sins in poster presentations or how to give the
poster no one remembers. Newsletter Soc Integr Compar Biol Fall. 1997.
pp. 10–11. Available at:

Here are some key tips (several borrowed from Purrington, C.B.
Designing conference posters. Retrieved 21/3/16 from

- Design your poster to fit on the available display stands, which
have a panel of 98 x 98 cm. It is OK if your poster is a little longer
than 98 cm, but it can be no more than 98 cm wide.

- Important information should be readable from about 3 m away.

- Don’t add conference logos. Everybody knows what conference they are
at, and adding a logo takes away precious space you need to make your
title big enough.

- The title should be short and raise interest.

- Don’t include the abstract. It will be available to everybody in the
abstract book, and you have to save space for the outline of your

- A poster should have from 300 to 800 words. It is an outline of your
argument, not the whole thing. Text should be clear and to the point.

- Bullets, numbering, and section headers make posters easier to read.

- Use graphics, schemes, and other tools to draw attention, engage
your readers, and keep them standing there long enough to appreciate
your work (and maybe even discuss it with you).

- Use a clean, consistent layout. A carefully-chosen (and limited) set
of fonts and colors can highlight different sections, parts of
arguments, and key ideas. Choose colors that can be distinguished by
viewers with limited color vision (e.g. avoid red/green contrasts).

- Take a look at good posters. You can find one here:

- Also take a look at a bad poster. Here is one:

When you’re ready to submit your abstract and design your poster, make
sure to read the information about posters on the conference website,

See you in Sao Paulo!

Charbel El-Hani and Jessica Bolker, program co-chairs, ISHPSSB 2017