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As an early-career researcher, I would like to get some organisational experience with chairing symposia, and am considering proposing a symposium for my (sub)field, at a major conference of the (general) field, which is psychology. I have the following doubts:

1) How is it best to time the symposium proposal's submission relative to obtaining the full talk details (titles & abstracts) from speakers? Some suggest that the latter can be obtained later once you have the symposium accepted; but to me it seems to make more sense to first enquire among colleagues what a possible symposium theme might be (seeking a convergent theme among everyone's current research keywords), before proposing it. Perhaps, as a mid-point, it's reasonable to just get acceptances from presenters, with only a rough idea for the symposium's thematic "centroid"? Trouble is, the conference I was considering actually requests (as do others) that the full talk details be included with the symposium proposal itself!

2) Organising a symposium is of course peanuts in comparison to organising a whole conference, but I anticipate even that will take a bit of time (negotiating talk topics, handling withdrawals/replacements, etc), so I wonder: alongside my actually enjoying it, and academia being arguably a 'gift economy', is there a real career benefit in having 'symposium organiser at conference X' in one's CV, i.e. are there real points 'scored' with this activity when applying for grants & jobs?

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    In my field, a symposium would be organized by a group, where the more junior people would contribute most of the actual work and the more senior people would offer advice, access to their networks and ultimately their reputation. – Roland Nov 26 '18 at 14:56
  • The "points" you score are mostly indirect: some of the people you invite will probably invite you the next time they organize something. – user37208 Nov 26 '18 at 15:05
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Regarding your question:

How is it best to time the symposium proposal's submission relative to obtaining the full talk details (titles & abstracts) from speakers?

This is specific to each conference. Check submission requirements. It is likely that they will submit abstracts to the conference and your session after your session is listed on the website/conference registration. Additionally, it is likely that what someone proposes to present now (early) may be different from what they might propose in three months when they register or when you, as a group, chat about the content of the session.

I, too, am an ECR, so consider that when reading my answer.

A few years ago I wanted to propose a symposium on a topic at a 'major' conference. I reached out to this professor, whom I had only brief email communication with, to gauge their interest in the topic. I provided a list of potential speakers and an abstract to this person. After some discussion, we concluded that a different, but related topic might be better for the conference. We submitted and it was accepted -- it was great! We recently published a paper which resulted from that meeting/symposium.

This leads me to your question:

Is there a real career benefit in having 'symposium organiser at conference X' in one's CV, i.e. are there real points 'scored' with this activity when applying for grants & jobs?

Yes! You will grow your network. You will learn through the activity how to strategically propose sessions, and invite and collaborate with others. You should come out of the session with a new, smaller network of researchers with whom collaboration should be a little easier (now that you 'know' each other). If the society accepts your symposium, it is likely they would be interested in receiving a research article on the topic(s). Organizing a session is also great for working with people with whom you likely wouldn't physically meet otherwise, and for getting out of your daily working area (i.e., invite people from regions/groups different than yours!).

Unless you are making travel arrangements and securing funding for the invited speakers, I don't think there will be much leg work beyond the initial submission, invitation emails, and reminder emails.

Find a mentor and collaborator to guide you through this process, and to help build your network.

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