interdisciplinary networks best practices

GSA Interdisciplinary Networks Suggested Best Practices

I. Scope and purpose of Interdisciplinary Networks

Interdisciplinary Networks are platforms tasked with focusing sustained interdisciplinary attention on topics of interest to the GSA membership by distributing calls for papers and forming panel series, seminars, and/or individual sessions for the annual conference on a regular basis. Networks also have maintained list-servs, blog sites, and webpages, and have developed publications (journal issues and book volumes) derived from their panel activities. (NB: All social media activities of the Networks Co-chairs and Co-coordinators follow the guidelines outlined in the GSA Social Media Policy.)

II. Interdisciplinary Networks Co-Chairs

The two Interdisciplinary Networks Co-chairs administer the functioning of the Interdisciplinary Networks. They are appointed by the GSA President for three-year terms without the possibility of reappointment. Their terms should normally be scheduled such that they rotate off in alternating years. Their duties include the following:

  • Hold an official GSA Networks reception, co-hosted with the GSA President, Executive Director, and the Network Coordinators;
  • Coordinate and assist the respective Networks Coordinators with any questions they might have as they prepare their annual calls for papers and seminar or panel series proposals;
  • Solicit and nominate new Networks and new Network Coordinators when terms of office are concluded.

III. Network Coordinators

Each Network will normally have two Coordinators. The Coordinators must represent different disciplines and should represent different academic ranks and kinds of institutions. Should a third Coordinator for an additional discipline be needed, an exception can be made at the discretion of the President of the GSA.

Committees with three or four Coordinators may retain these until their current appointments expire. Further reappointments will only be made to reach the ideal number of two, unless an exception is approved by the President of the GSA.

Network Coordinators are nominated by the Interdisciplinary Networks Co-chairs and confirmed by the GSA President and Executive Director for three-year terms. Networks may provide candidates for nomination by providing the following information:

  • Name, Rank, Department Affiliation, and University affiliation
  • Link to a current institutional site
  • Brief CV
  • Email address

In order to facilitate a diversity of leadership, Coordinators may serve only one term of three years. A maximum of one reappointment may be granted at the discretion of the President of the GSA.

IV. Recommendations for Network Coordinators

1. Consider a broad palette of session formats for your Network activities at the GSA conference, but maintain a coherent focus:

  • book sessions (around author & their new book)
  • roundtable sessions (especially as a wrap-up roundtable for panel series)
  • pre-conference workshop sessions (e.g., on archives research for grad students)
  • seminars (note: if Network Coordinators independently propose a seminar, it probably entails too much work to also plan Network panels at the same conference)

2. Plan carefully the number of panels in a series (four maximum, otherwise the Network members cannot / will not attend all of them, and it becomes difficult to sustain coherence and communication):

  • The more panels in a series, the more difficult it is for the program committee to schedule them, because most attendees are involved actively in two different panels.
  • Panels should be listed by individual panel title, followed by a subtitle with a Network attribution. For example: “(Sponsored by the Network on War and Violence).” Multiple panels in a series should include sequential numbering in the title.
  • Two Networks can co-sponsor a panel or seminar if the other requirements above (especially interdisciplinarity) are met.
  • Panel and panel series organizers with similar interests should coordinate with the support of the Interdisciplinary Networks Co-chairs.
  • All Networks and individuals working across panels, or between an overarching series and component panels, must be given credit for that work in any calls for papers, announcements, or other documentation. 

3. Network Coordinators are responsible for distributing calls for papers, using established and their own specialized networks, for example:

4. Network seminars, panels, panel series, and roundtables must be interdisciplinary:

  • This may mean that individual sessions bring together representatives of different disciplines or that an interdisciplinary series addresses a focus or question in a number of “monochromatic” sessions representing different disciplinary or diachronic angles.
  • It is the responsibility of the Network Coordinators to engage, question, and sustain the interdisciplinary dialogue in a meaningful way in conference sessions.
  • The Interdisciplinary Networks Co-chairs have no strict definition of “interdisciplinarity,” but there are several goals to keep in mind: bridging temporal epochs (i.e., avoiding a presentist approach), bringing in more disciplines (especially beyond history and literature), constituting conference sessions in which scholars from different disciplines talk to each other (and attract an audience that crosses disciplinary boundaries), fostering diversity, equity and inclusion and reaching out to those who might have historically been underrepresented in the GSA and at the annual conference.

5. Scholars for whom the GSA is not an obvious conference in their field (e.g.: Anthropology; Economics; Geography; Law; Public Affairs; Sociology; Social Work) may be reluctant or unable to easily secure the membership and attendance expenses involved in attending. Convincing these scholars to attend requires advocacy work and careful persuasion by the Network Coordinators. Indeed, it is one of their most vital roles.

6. Timeline / deadlines for planning a Network panel series:

  • GSA sends out its calls for papers by email in the late Fall.
  • The GSA’s fall newsletter also includes conference information and membership requirements.
  • The recommended Network deadline for panel series submissions should be earlier than the official deadline, ideally a month earlier.
  • The GSA’s deadline for online submission of seminar proposals is ca. January 10; the deadline for regular panels/roundtables/individual papers is typically the third week of March.

7. Panels, panel series, roundtables, and seminars proposed by Networks are submitted via the online submission portal to the appropriate Coordinator(s) on the Program Committee.

  • One Network Coordinator should take on the responsibility of completing the online submission for the entire panel series proposal, which includes a panel description or justification, names / affiliations of all participants (moderator, presenters, respondent, if included), and paper abstracts.
  • The Program Committee, the Program Director, and the Executive Director reserve the right – as with every session – to accept or reject Network proposals.
  • Panels/roundtables may not have more than one graduate student as a presenter; graduate students may organize and propose a panel or a roundtable and may moderate same, but may not serve as commentator.
  • To submit a proposal for a paper, panel, roundtable, or seminar, all participants must become GSA members before the paper or panel has been submitted via the online conference submission portal to the Program Committee.

8. Several Networks have been very successful in publishing their panel series output in journal focus issues, or as book volumes (see the GSA Spektrum series at Berghahn Publishing), and online.

9. Network Coordinators often find it useful to maintain contact with their Network participants beyond the planning for a GSA conference, using e.g. a Facebook page, listserv, blog, or website. These tools are helpful in facilitating exchange of information about new publications, calls for papers for other conferences, dialogue about research and opportunities, etc. All Network social media activities must follow the guidelines outlined in the GSA Social Media Policy.

V. Proposing a New Network

Interdisciplinary Networks Co-chairs will issue a call for new Network proposals at least every three years through GSA social media, newsletters, and other organization communication tools. All proposals for new Networks must be assessed by the Interdisciplinary Networks Co-chairs before reaching the stage of official nomination, using the following guiding questions.

  • Does the new Network proposal truly meet broad interdisciplinary criteria, or is its topical and/or temporal focus too narrow?
  • Does the new Network proposal avoid overlap with existing Networks?
  • Are the proposed Network Coordinators representative of different research backgrounds in terms of discipline and hopefully also temporal focus?
  • Is the language of the proposal attentive to diversity, equity and inclusion?

Note: Any new Network proposal, as well as Network Coordinator invitations, must be formally approved by both the GSA President and Executive Director.

To propose a new Network, please submit to the Interdisciplinary Networks Co-chairs the following information for both new Coordinator candidates:

  • Name, Rank, Department Affiliation, and University affiliation
  • Link to a current institutional site
  • Brief CV
  • Email address

In addition, please provide a two to three-page rationale, outlining the interdisciplinarity of the field, the need/purpose for a Network in the GSA, plans for soliciting proposals (e.g., listservs for calls for papers, Facebook page, blog, etc.), and ideas about ways to foster communication/publications/other outreach beyond the GSA. This need only consist of a paragraph or two on each of these topics.

As you prepare your proposal:

First, you will want to be explicit about how you would like to advertise more widely for the annual conference by stating that the Network will initiate a Call for Papers for the GSA annual meeting. The most common practice of Networks, especially those just getting started, is to sponsor panels at the annual meeting. This usually involves sending out a Call for Papers for panel proposals with a due date of mid-January, giving you enough time to vet the proposals and send them on to the program committee before its mid-February deadline for all proposals. These panels still must be approved by the Program Committee, but in past years we have had little difficulty getting these accepted. In the proposal, you may also think of seminar topics you would like to propose for future GSA meetings since many Networks have also been organizing seminars recently.

Second, the Networks consist of interdisciplinary groups of scholars working on a common theme. Because the Networks are intended to be interdisciplinary, we strongly prefer that Coordinators come from more than one field. We also emphasize the need for Coordinator teams be made up of one senior and one junior colleague to avoid burdening probationary faculty.  Again, starting in 2023, only two Coordinators are normally allowed per Network (larger groups will be reduced to two upon expiration of their current terms). Three Coordinators may be allowed with special approval of the GSA President.

Third, please address in your proposal your concrete plans for reaching out to scholars working outside the disciplines and interests of the Network Coordinators. This might involve sending the call for papers to sites in different disciplines. For example, those scholars working on the Holocaust and representation might have their own networks, but nonetheless be interested in teaching, art history, and media studies. Thus, you might consider advertising to sites such as H-Soz-Kult, H-German, and H-Holocaust. 

Ending Networks

Networks are intended to foster connections across disciplines, but they can also run the risk of becoming routine after several years. Starting in 2023, all existing and new Networks will be given six years to accomplish the goals of fostering interdisciplinarity, after which they will be retired.

  • Network Coordinators and the Interdisciplinary Co-chairs should check in with one another annually, at the annual conference or virtually.
  • Renewals of an additional six years can be granted at the discretion of the President of the GSA.
  • Renewals will be based upon how active a Network has been in organizing panels and seminars at GSA conferences and the Network’s stated future plans.
  • New Networks can build upon the themes of retired Networks, but new approaches and rationales must be proposed.
  • The number of Networks remains undetermined, but the GSA President, in consultation with the Interdisciplinary Networks Co-chairs, may cap the number of Networks if necessary.
  • Dormant Networks may also be retired. The Interdisciplinary Networks Co-chairs make this determination in communication with the affected Network Coordinators, GSA President, and Executive Director.