Rules and Guidelines for IAU Scientific Meetings
The program of IAU scientific meetings (Symposia, Focus Meetings, Division Meetings, Regional Meetings) is one of the most important means by which the IAU pursues its goal of promoting astronomy through international collaboration. A large fraction of the Union's budget is devoted to the support of these IAU scientific meetings.
The IAU Executive Committee (EC) places great emphasis on maintaining high scientific standards, coverage of a balanced spectrum of topics, and an appropriately broad and international flavour for the program of IAU meetings. In that respect, the ICSU rules on non-discrimination in the access of qualified scientists from all parts of the world apply to any IAU meeting. Therefore the IAU opposes any discrimination or harassment based on such factors as ethnic origin, religion, citizenship, language, political or other opinion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or age in relation with the General Assembly, Symposia, Focus Meetings, and in general in any activity of its scientific bodies in which the IAU has or shares responsibility.
Normally, the initiative to propose a scientific meeting for IAU sponsorship originates from a group of scientists in a certain field. In collaboration with colleagues worldwide, they prepare a draft scientific programme and nominations for the members of a candidate Scientific Organising Committee (SOC), who will be responsible for the scientific aspects of the meeting from its inception to its conclusion. Responsibility for the preparation and timely submission of the final proposal rests with the chairperson of the candidate SOC.
If you are considering to organise a meeting it might be useful to start reading the Step by Step summary for the proposal of IAU Meetings, in section 5 of this document.
The number of meetings that the IAU supports financially is
- 9 IAU Symposia per year (currently 20,000 EUR each)
- 2 co-Sponsored Meetings per year (up to 5,000 EUR each)
and in the two years between General Assemblies (GA),
- 3 Regional IAU Meeting (currently 20,000 EUR each).
Accordingly, not all meeting proposals worthy of support can be awarded IAU sponsorship.
IAU grants are intended to cover in part expenses associated with attendance of participants at the meetings. The IAU grant money cannot be used for organisational purposes. Thus the organisers are expected to raise additional funds.
Regular contact with the organisers during the preparation and conduct of IAU scientific meetings is maintained by the IAU General Secretary (GS) and the President of the Division for Focus and Division Meetings during the GAs and by the IAU Assistant General Secretary (AGS) and the President of the Coordinating Division (the IAU Division associated with the scientific field of the meeting and which has accepted the responsibility of endorsing the proposal) in the case of Symposia.
2. IAU Meetings
The IAU Symposium Series is the scientific flagship of the IAU.
IAU Symposia are intended to significantly advance the field by seeking answers to current key questions and/or clarify emerging concepts through invited reviews, invited papers, contributed papers and poster papers. Therefore, their programs should consist of reviews and previews and should provide ample time for discussion.
Symposia are organised on suitably broad, yet well-defined scientific themes of considerable general interest, and normally last 5 days.
An IAU Symposium can be proposed by individual members of the IAU, by an IAU Working Group, or by an IAU Commission.
The deadline for the submission of the proposals is 15 December, two years before the year of the proposed meeting.
While some themes have developed series of IAU Symposia with intervals of 3-5 years, approval for those is not automatically guaranteed, since each proposal will be judged on its own scientific merits.
In the year of an IAU General Assembly (GA), 6 of the 9 IAU Symposia will be scheduled as GA Symposia within the scientific program of the GA and held at the GA venue. A GA Symposium normally lasts 3.5 days.The 3 IAU Symposia not associated with that GA should not be scheduled within 3 months before or after the dates of that GA. The EC may, in exceptional circumstances, decide to support a Symposium within 3 months of GA.
2.2. Focus Meetings
A Focus Meeting (FM) held at an IAU General Assembly addresses scientific themes of interest to a group of IAU members willing to promote a new scientific area or an emerging field, not well, or not at all, represented in the existing IAU Commissions.
A FM normally lasts 1 - 2 days maximum during the GA. Depending on the total requested duration, approximately 15 FMs are expected to be selected for each GA, in addition to the 6 GA Symposia.
Normally, the initiative to propose an IAU GA Focus Meeting originates from a group of scientists aiming at promoting cross-disciplinarity, while keeping a well-defined "focus" on a given topic. In collaboration with colleagues worldwide, they should prepare a draft scientific program and nominations for the members of a candidate SOC.
The deadline for the submission of the proposals is 15 December, two years before the year of the proposed meeting.
2.3. Division Meetings
The purpose of Division Meetings (DM) held at an IAU General Assembly is to gather members of a given Division in a meeting aimed at providing a broad scientific overview of the field, and at optimising the scientific and organisational exchanges between its Commissions, Working Groups, and more generally between its members. The emphasis is on the scientific activities of the Division, and organisational questions may be discussed in a relatively brief "business session".
The normal duration of Division Meetings is 2 days. It is expected that the duration of "business sessions" of DMs will not exceed 0.5 day.
Division Meetings are organised jointly by Division Presidents, with the respective Division Steering Committees acting as individual SOCs (or, as the case may be, appointing ad hoc SOCs), and taking into account the existence of Inter-Division, Cross-Division or Working Group activities.
The programs (scientific and business) are left to the responsibility of the relevant Divisions, as are the respective roles attributed to their Commissions and Working Groups, in consultation with their members.Their scientific program should however take into account the general program of the GA, in particular avoiding duplicating sessions, or part of sessions, or talks, already included in the program of GA Symposia or Focus Meetings. To this effect, the scientific program of Division Meetings should be finalised in consultation with the GS.
The deadline for finalising the program of Division Meetings is 15 December of the year preceding the GA, i.e., 1 year after the deadline for the proposal of Symposia and Focus Meetings therefore allowing the Divisions to optimise their scientific program taking into account the already accepted meetings of the GA.
2.4. Regional Meetings
The IAU sponsors 3 series of Regional IAU Meetings (triennial):
- in the Asian-Pacific region (APRIM, since 1978),
- in the Latin-American region (LARIM, since 1978), and
- in the Middle-East-African region (MEARIM, since 2008).
These Meetings are held by invitation of a national astronomical society in, respectively, the Asian-Pacific region, the Latin-American region, and the Middle-East-African region, in years between GAs. Their purpose, in addition to the discussion of specific scientific topics, is to promote contacts between scientists in the regions concerned, especially young astronomers. Therefore, a much wider range of scientific topics, a larger SOC, and a larger total attendance are expected for RIMS than for IAU Symposia.
3. Preparations for IAU Meetings
3.1. LETTER OF INTENT AND PROPOSAL
Prospective meeting organisers should inform the IAU well in advance of their intended proposal submission, by sending a Letter of Intent (LoI) via the IAU Proposal Web Server.
The deadline for the submission of LoIs is 15 September, 2 years before the year of the proposed meeting.
The LoI should state:
(a) the title of the intended IAU Meeting; the title should reflect the topic of the meeting as concisely and succinctly as possible (no longer than 10 words, or 70 characters including spaces); long and detailed titles do not catch the eye, and are cumbersome for the announcement of a meeting as well as on the cover of its subsequent Proceedings; the AGS may request the proposers to modify their title to meet this requirement;
(b) the prospective Coordinating Division (proposers should a priori have contacted the President of an appropriate IAU Division, requesting that this Division accepts the coordinating responsibilities for the meeting as "Coordinating Division”); other Divisions with an interest in the meeting may also be contacted in a similar way requesting their endorsement;
(c) the full name(s) of the proposed SOC chairperson(s);
(d) a short list of topics to be addressed at the Meeting (up to 10 topics);
(e) the venue and the preferred dates for the Symposium;
(f) the full names and addresses of the proposed Editors; the first listed in the web form will be considered as the Contact Editor, with prime responsibility for contact with the IAU AGS and with the Publisher; the Contact Editor must be an IAU member.
Once the LoI is submitted via the IAU Proposal Web Server it will be automatically sent to the AGS, with a copy to the president of the selected Coordinating IAU Division.
A list of Letters of Intent received will be posted and updated on the IAU web site, informing prospective proposers of other existing plans for IAU meeting proposals. This is in order to avoid unnecessary competition between proposals and to stimulate possible collaborations between otherwise competing groups.
Letters of Intent are normally followed by full proposals.
An electronic application form and procedures have been designed so as to ensure that the information necessary for the evaluation of the proposals will be complete and in a uniform format, allowing objective comparison between proposals as far as possible. Therefore proposals with all entries properly answered, have to be submitted electronically to the IAU Proposal Web Server.
In addition, it is strongly recommended that Letters of Support from relevant Divisions, Commissions, and/or Working Groups be submitted together with the proposal. To allow Divisions or Commissions proper time to prepare endorsement and comments, the draft proposals should be sent to them approximately 1 month before the deadline. Their recommendations are expected to be duly included in the proposal.
The full proposal has to be submitted by 15 December, two years before the year of the proposed meeting. No additional material may be accepted after that date.
Once the proposal is submitted via the IAU Proposal Web Server it will be automatically sent to the AGS, with a copy to the president of the Coordinating IAU Division.
3.2. SCIENTIFIC ORGANISING COMMITTEE
Given the international nature of the Union, IAU Meetings are by definition internationally oriented. A well-balanced distribution of the proposed SOC members and also of the proposed key speakers, in terms of geography and gender, is essential. The SOC membership should reflect, in a balanced way, current activity in the field and normally, substantially less than half of the SOC membership and of the key speakers should come from a single country. As a matter of fact, the SOC membership should reflect, in a balanced way, the current activity in the field.
While the science is the key element in assessing the scientific value of a proposal yet the composition of the SOC is also a relevant parameter in the evaluation.
The SOC of a Meeting has the overall responsibility for its scientific standards and should ensure coverage of the principal topics of the field proposed.The SOC is responsible for the scientific, gender, and geographical balance of the meeting in three main aspects:
(a) the definition of the scientific program, including the choice and distribution of topics for individual sessions, and the selection of invited reviews, invited papers, contributed papers and poster papers; the poster sessions should be organised providing adequate time and structure, preferably allowing for time slots with poster’s authors available by the poster and ready to present a short oral summary, or at least answer questions and engage in discussions;
(b) the choice of key speakers for invited reviews, and of session chairs;
(c) providing in the proposal a list of up to 10 preliminary scientific program topics, for announcement in the IAU Information Bulletin.
The SOC is also responsible for ensuring the strict observance of the ICSU rules on Freedom in the Conduct of Science as well as the IAU anti-harassment guidelines, at all moments and in all activities associated with the meeting.
The responsibility for the preparation and timely submission of the final proposal rests with the chairperson of the SOC.
The SOC, should not be larger than 16 persons and should represent an optimum scientific, gender, and geographic distribution. Normally, an institution should not be represented on the SOC by more than 1 person. SOC Chairs, or at least one of the co-Chairs should be members of the IAU. It is customary, but not required, that the other SOC members all be IAU members.
The participation of DP’s or VP’s in the SOC should be weighted carefully, as they are themselves part of the selection process and may not take part in the discussions related to the proposal to avoid conflicts of interest.
SOC membership is subject to approval by the IAU EC, as part of the approval process. Any change of SOC membership, after a Meeting has been accepted by the EC, has to be justified and requires the prior approval of the IAU AGS.
3.3. LOCAL ORGANISING COMMITTEE
The Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the Meeting, to be identified in the proposal, is responsible for all aspects of the local arrangements associated with the meeting, namely for:
- booking and preparation of meeting rooms,
- provisions for modern audio-visual facilities, for coffee and tea breaks,
- arranging for the necessary transportation for meeting participants and ensuring that accommodation within reasonable price levels is available.
- maintaining the budget and ensuring that the IAU funds are used exclusively as intended.
Other tasks include providing assistance to the meeting participants with their bookings and with official invitations and visa applications, and for providing or offering advice on access to affordable, reliable child care. In addition, the LOC should prepare and schedule social events as appropriate.
The local organisation of all GA Symposia and FMs is in the hands of the GA LOC.
3.4. VENUE AND ACCOMMODATION
The proposed venue should be reasonably accessible and affordable. The venue should have modern audio-visual facilities, and ensure that all poster presentations will be on display during the whole duration of the meeting.
To enable interested and qualified colleagues from all countries around the world to attend a meeting, affordable accommodation should be available and efforts should be made to secure additional financial sponsoring, in order to keep the participants' costs reasonable. Access to nearby, affordable child care is important, and the need for support for such services should be taken into account in the distribution of the IAU grants to attendees of the meeting.
3.5. REGISTRATION FEE
An effort must be made to keep the Meeting registration fee affordable to all. Such effort should include the use of low-cost meeting facilities and finding local sponsorship. Proposers should carefully specify what services the registration fee will cover.
The current upper limit of the registration fee for IAU Symposia (outside of General Assemblies) is about 300 EUR or equivalent. The registration fee must include the cost of the proceedings (GBP 58 for 2016 if in bulk order). Proposers should budget accordingly, taking into account the relevant exchange rates.
Participants of IAU Symposia held as part of an IAU GA are required to pay the full registration fee for that GA, whatever the duration of their stay.
3.6. SELECTION CRITERIA FOR IAU SPONSORSHIP OF MEETINGS
The scientific merit of each IAU Meeting proposal will be evaluated by an ad hoc advisory committee comprising the IAU Division Presidents (DP’s) and the IAU Vice-Presidents (VP’s), chaired by the IAU AGS. This evaluation will take into consideration comments and advice received from the Steering Committees of the relevant IAU Divisions, and from IAU Commissions and/or IAU Working Groups.
The following guidelines for obtaining IAU sponsorship should be observed by prospective proposers:
(a) An IAU Meeting should have a well-defined and scientifically relevant theme, should be scheduled at a propitious time for significant progress in the field, and should be of interest to young researchers as well as senior experts.
(b) While the IAU embraces all fields in astronomy, a proposed IAU Meeting programme should maintain a broad and balanced scope and cover the main active fields at appropriate intervals.
(c) Scientific programmes of proposed IAU Meetings should be well balanced, to be demonstrated by the proposed draft programme and the proposed draft list of key speakers.
(d) It is essential that no restriction based on gender, race, colour, nationality, and religious or political affiliation be imposed on the full participation of all bona fide scientists in any aspect of the organisation and conduct of IAU Meetings, either by its organisers or by the authorities of the host country. Approval of a proposal for an IAU meeting requires explicit guarantees that this principle will be respected. The statement that the ICSU rules on non-discrimination in the open access to the meeting, as well as that the IAU anti-harassment policy will be strictly observed, must be explicitly confirmed before a proposal will receive final approval by the EC. A summary of the measures taken to ensure this should be given; the signatures of both the SOC and LOC chairpersons are required.
(e) In association with IAU meetings, educational activities may be organised, like International Schools for Young Astronomers (ISYAs) and Teachers' Workshops or Public Talks by eminent scientists. By taking advantage of the presence of many national and foreign scientists, 1-day or 2-days events may be organised for the benefit of university and high-school educators in the country hosting the meeting. While the scientific quality of the proposed Meeting will remain the primary selection criterion for IAU sponsorship, a good parallel educational program will certainly add to the overall merit of a proposal. Stimulating and improving the teaching of science, and of astronomy in particular, is becoming increasingly urgent, and parallel educational activities of the type described above, in connection with IAU scientific meetings, are encouraged.
The IAU AGS will communicate to the IAU EC the recommendations of the Committee for selection.
The EC will take the decision on the final selection at its annual meeting held in April or May of the year following the submission. This decision, including conditions to be fulfilled before final approval, will be communicated shortly after the meeting to the proposers by the AGS in a letter of award, accompanied by an official form listing the essential facts of the meeting as approved by the EC.
After selection, only minor revisions of the proposal that do not have an impact (for example title, date and place) are allowed but nevertheless require prior approval by the AGS.
3.7. WEBSITE FOR IAU MEETINGS
As soon as a successful applicant has been informed by the AGS of the approval of the proposed IAU Meeting, the SOC/LOC are expected to create a website for that meeting containing all information which is essential for the participants.
In a similar fashion, Division Meetings should set up their websites as early as possible after the selection of Symposia and Focus Meetings (at the latest by June 15 the year before the GA), and update them in due course. These sites will be accessible from the respective Division pages on the IAU web site.
A standard template for the website of IAU meetings is available here.
3.8. IAU TRAVEL GRANTS
The IAU wishes to support qualified scientists to whom only limited means of support are available, e.g., colleagues from economically less privileged countries and young scientists. An IAU grant should be the seed money in ensuring the participation of a selected beneficiary, including participants with young children, rather than adding comfort for colleagues whose attendance is already assured.
The IAU grant money cannot be used for organisational purposes.
A proposal for the distribution of IAU grants to individual participants is expected to have a reasonable gender and geographical distribution. Normally no more than 1/5 of the IAU grant funds for a Meeting should be allocated to participants from a single country.
Within these general guidelines, it is left to the judgment of the SOC how to formulate its proposal for IAU grant distribution, maintaining the overall scientific standard of the conference as the primary criterion.
As a rule, the LOC will open a bank account in the name of the Meeting (or use a bank account of its institute or university provided there is no excessive overhead) to which the IAU Secretariat will transfer the allocated IAU grants fund.
Individual IAU grants will be paid by the LOC chairperson to recipients, upon their arrival and registration at the Meeting, against the signature of a receipt, and all these receipts should be sent to the IAU Secretariat, after the Meeting. All IAU funds must be accounted for, and any unspent funds must be returned to the IAU unless agreed otherwise in writing by the AGS or GS.
3.8.1. IAU Travel Grants for Symposia
Participants of IAU Symposia may apply for an IAU travel grant, using the form available on the website.
The deadline for the application is specified in the Symposium webpage.
A proposal for the distribution of IAU grants to individual participants following the guidelines referred above will be drafted by the SOC chairperson using the “Template for the proposal for the distribution of IAU Grants to individual participants in IAU Meetings” (.xlsx format, 18 KB) and sent to the AGS, at least 3 months before the date of the Symposium, to ensure timely evaluation of the proposed list and possible revisions, notification to grant beneficiaries (individual notification letters will be e-mailed by the AGS to the grant’s recipients, with a copy to the SOC chair) and completion of visa formalities.
Official invitation letters, if required, shall be provided by the SOC or LOC chairs.
Any disagreement between the SOC and the AGS on the award of grants shall be referred to the IAU General Secretary (GS), whose decision shall be final.
3.8.2. IAU Travel Grants for General Assembly Meetings
Currently participants in the GA are supported by their own resources or via IAU grants for Symposia, Focus and Division Meetings.
IAU GA travel grants are intended to cover in part expenses associated with the participant's attendance during the respective entire meeting, including support for child care if needed. It is expected that the grantees will also attend other GA meetings. Requests for financial support are submitted by the individual IAU member using the Application Form for an IAU grant available at the website. Full completion of the Application Form is mandatory, including submission of an Abstract, if relevant.
The deadline for the application is 15th December of the year previous to the GA.
The IAU Secretariat will prepare relevant summaries of applications, to be sent to the SOCs of the different scientific meetings for ranking. The IAU GS, in consultation with the organisers of the selected Meetings, will make a final selection and coordinate the financial support to be allocated to each of them.
3.8.3. IAU Travel Grants for Regional Meetings
IAU GA travel grants are intended to cover in part expenses associated with the participant's attendance of the Regional Meetings. Requests for financial support are submitted by the individual IAU member using the Application Form for an IAU grant available at the website. Full completion of the Application Form is mandatory, including submission of an Abstract, if relevant.
The deadline for the application is 4 months before the Regional Meeting.
The IAU Secretariat will prepare relevant summaries of applications, to be sent to the SOC for ranking. The IAU GS, in consultation with the organisers of the Regional Meeting, will make a final selection and coordinate the financial support to be allocated to each grantee.
3.9. POST MEETING REPORT
The SOC is responsible for preparing the Post Meeting Report using the standard form available on-line within 1 month after the Meeting.
For Symposia the following documents should be attached:
(i) Final scientific program, list of invited review speakers and session chairs;
(ii) Summary of the scientific highlights of the meeting (1-2 pages);
(iii) List of participants, including their distribution by country and gender (double bar chart);
(iv) List of recipients of IAU grants, stating the amount received, country, and gender.
For Symposia the Post Meeting Report should be sent to the AGS.
For Focus Meetings the Post Meeting Report should include the documents referred above in (i) and (ii), and be sent to the GS.
For Regional Meetings the Post Meeting Report should include the documents referred above from (i) to (iv), as well as a proposal for the next venue, and be sent to the GS.
3.10. PROCEEDINGS OF IAU MEETINGS
The success of a Meeting and its proceedings depends in the first place on arranging for the best possible scientific program and selecting the best possible speakers, keeping in mind the need for a balanced distribution of gender and geographical origin.
For Symposia the proceedings are published in the IAU Proceedings Series by the IAU Publisher, Cambridge University Press (CUP). It is of paramount importance that the proceedings will be published timely, i.e., within 6 months after the Meeting, as a valuable record for future reference.
Combined instructions for authors and editors for the publication of the proceedings of IAU Symposia are given on-line. The instructions contain the links to the relevant LaTeX templates files.
The proceedings of Focus Meetings will be edited by the IAU GS during the year following the GA, and published in the IAU series Astronomy in Focus, also by CUP.
Guidelines and instructions for FM authors and editors for the publication of the proceedings are available on-line.
The editors must submit the complete manuscript of their FM to the GS before the end of the year of the GA, at the latest.
The Reports of Division Meetings will be published only in electronic form. Each Division however must appoint a "Lead Editor" of its choice to liaise with the GS before the end of the year of the GA, at the latest for proper inclusion of the proceedings in the IAU website.
The Proceedings of Regional IAU Meetings will be published at least in electronic form, as well as by a regional publisher or in a regional astronomical publication series, within one year of the meeting. The SOC must appoint a "Lead Editor" to liaise with the GS for proper inclusion of the proceedings in the IAU website.
For each IAU meeting the respective “Lead Editor” should collect the corresponding authorisations from the authors for the publication of the proceedings.
4. Co-sponsored scientific meetings
The IAU may decide to co-sponsor meetings that are organised by other scientific unions. Main organisational and financial responsibility for such meetings rests with the main sponsoring union. The IAU expects to be represented in the SOC and to be consulted about publication of the proceedings and other major issues. The IAU may make a contribution of up to 5,000 EUR to that meeting.
5. Step by Step summary for the proposal of IAU Meetings
- Submit a Letter of Intent (LoI) via the IAU Proposal Web Server.
Deadline: 15 September, 2 years before the year of the proposed meeting.
- Check the list of LoI received at the IAU web site.
- Submit the proposal via IAU Proposal Web Server. Attach all relevant documents, namely endorsement letters from the Coordinating Division and other Divisions or Commissions.
Deadline: 15 December, 2 years before the year of the proposed meeting.
No additional material may be accepted after that date.
- The deadline for finalising the program of Division Meetings is 15 December of the year preceding the GA.
- As soon as informed by the AGS of the approval, the SOC/LOC should create a website for the meeting using the standard IAU template available here.
For Focus and Division Meetings the web site should be set as early as possible after the selection, at the latest by June 15 the year before the GA.
- Any change after the proposal has been accepted by the EC requires the prior approval of the AGS.
- For GA Symposia and Focus Meetings the IAU grants are intended to cover in part expenses associated with the attendance of the GA.
Deadline: 15th December of the year previous to the GA.
- The SOC chairperson to draft a proposal for the distribution of IAU grants to individual participants using standard template and send for scrutiny and approval, by the GS in the case GA Symposia, Focus and Regional Meetings, and by the AGS in the case of Symposia.
This proposal should be sent at least 3 months before the date of the meeting.
- Individual IAU grants to be paid by the LOC chairperson to recipients, upon their arrival and registration at the meeting, against the signature of a receipt.
- SOC responsible for sending the Post Meeting Report within 1 month after the Meeting.
For Focus and Regional Meetings to be sent to the GS, in the case of Symposia the Post Meeting Report is to be sent to the AGS.
- Guidelines for Authors and Editors for the publication of the proceedings of IAU Meetings.
- Proceedings of IAU Meetings to be published within 6 months after the Meeting.
- Editors of Focus Meetings must submit the complete manuscript of their FM to the GS before the end of the year of the GA, at the latest.