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I am the lead co-organizer of a symposium at a technical conference later this year. The abstract submissions are now closed, and I'm working on slotting the talks into sessions. With the number of abstracts we have in hand, I'm planning to spread them across three sequential sessions in a single chronological track. In the event it matters, the symposium scope is intentionally very broad, so the speakers in any given session may (justifiably) have little interest in attending the other sessions before/after the one in which they're scheduled.

There are a handful of research groups that have each submitted two abstracts to the symposium, with different presenting authors. All of the abstracts are in-scope and distinct from one another, so I plan to accept them all.

What is the etiquette regarding scheduling of such talks, submitted by the same research group but with different presenting authors?

Should I specifically aim to schedule them close to one another in the agenda? Should I intentionally interpose talks from other groups? Or, does it not really matter?

From the perspective of the presenting research group, it would seem most convenient logistically for the talks to be grouped together in sequence. That way, the whole group would have the option of attending just the relevant small chunk of the session, with the rest of the morning/afternoon more free to attend other talks.

From the perspective of a symposium organizer, though, it would make more sense to separate the pairs of talks, in an effort to make it more convenient for the speakers to just stay in our session track, rather than bouncing back and forth between our session and others.

It's also entirely possible I'm just overthinking the matter.

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    I don't get this. If you have three parallel sessions, you should be able to group the talks thematically, and you obviously put every talk in the sessions it fits best into. No? – Karl Apr 2 '18 at 16:33
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    @Karl That's exactly what I've got lined up currently: three sessions, divided thematically. There are instances where more than one abstract from the same research group falls into the same theme/session. – hBy2Py Apr 2 '18 at 16:34
  • And you don't know wether to put two talks from the same group into the same session, or one into the morning, and one in the afternoon session? – Karl Apr 2 '18 at 20:08
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    @Wildcard Good point: the sessions will be strictly sequential in time, and thus 'separated' and 'grouped' represent positions in time within the schedule. See edits. – hBy2Py Apr 2 '18 at 20:27
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    @DavidRicherby Perhaps not, but running afoul of some aspect of etiquette of which I had been unaware was my main concern when originally asking the question. I could see it being regarded as a pure question of, e.g., logistics by some. – hBy2Py Apr 3 '18 at 10:34
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I second aeismail's general advice:

You have to plan the symposium from the audience’s perspective, not the individual research group’s.

However, I derive a somewhat different conclusion from it.

First, order/group the presentations based upon their content, irrespective of who contributed them or who will present, e.g.:

  • Order talks in such a way that concepts are covered first, more concrete examples later.
  • Group talks by the presented area of application.
  • Possibly (if it is well accepted in the field that difficulties of works vary and more complex does not necessarily mean "better") order talks by increasing complexity.
  • etc.

Only then, if there is still some question about ordering or grouping, you may want to look at who are the contributors1. In that case, I'd prefer grouping works whose authors are connected, as that might allow to

  • shorten parts of the introduction (the personal introduction if it's the same author, the introduction of the context of application for talks related to the same project)
  • lessen the burden on the audience to wrap their minds around totally different contexts of application (all of which may be alien to the audience, despite being familiar with the discussed conceptual questions on a more abstract level)
  • get used to one style of presentation (at least if it's the same presenter)
  • reduce some confusion among listeners who may try to associate the talks with some external factors in their minds and might then wonder why they remember only (w.l.o.g.) four groups/presenters/projects for five talks. Seeing the two talks by the same presenter in direct succession makes it more obvious what is going on and may thus render it easier to form a mental image of the session structure.

1: I am having a hard time picturing a scenario where being from the same research group (in the sense of a research group as a team working together at one (w.l.o.g.) university with one professor as the lead) could be relevant in any way. Two contributions by either the same presenter (a very special case of "from the same research group") or from the same project/grant (which can, however, involve entirely different research groups from different institutions and parts of the world) seem like a more relevant case in the context of this question.

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You have to plan the symposium from the audience’s perspective, not the individual research group’s.

Presenting multiple talks from the same group back-to-back or even within the same session can become tedious, even if the work is nominally “distinct.” If I were planning multiple sessions, I would avoid putting abstracts from the same group in the same session, but instead spread the pairs out evenly among the three sessions (if possible).

If your sessions are thematic, I’d still try to separate the talks within the session, so that the talks are not back-to-back, but perhaps “bookending” the session or nearly so.

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    That said, it may also be useful to group the sessions by subtopic, making things easier for other attendees who might only be interested in part of the symposium. That might make it more likely that a single group's talks end up in the same session, which I'd probably consider more useful than the mild tedium of possibly similar work being next to each other. It also might make it easier for the second speaker to assume things from the first rather than repeating them. – Dougal Apr 2 '18 at 16:38
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    And from the individual research group's perspective, why travel to a conference to present to each other in a session? It will maximize the feedback and exposure and cross-pollination they can get if they are spread across the sessions. – cactus_pardner Apr 2 '18 at 17:00

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