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AMS Manual for Special Session Organizers


The Society sponsors or co-sponsors several types of scientific meetings each year. These meetings are announced to the membership in the Notices and on the AMS website, typically at least one year prior to the meeting. The scientific portion of these meetings usually consist of Invited Addresses (formerly called "Hour Addresses"), Special Sessions of shorter papers, and sessions of Contributed Papers (called "ten-minute" papers). The scientific program for each meeting is under the control of a program committee for that meeting. This committee is appointed by the President. The Associate Secretary assigned to the meeting is an ex-officio member of the Program Committee and is the principal facilitator for the business of the Program Committee.

There are three basic types of meetings to which this manual applies:

Annual Meeting (held in January of each year)

There are up to five Invited Addresses and ordinarily at least twenty (20) Special Sessions. The Program Committee for National Meetings is responsible for all activities of the Society that occur at National Meetings.

Sectional Meetings

There are four sections of the Society, the Eastern Section comprising approximately states east and north of Pennsylvania (including Pennsylvania and those provinces of Canada north of this portion of the US), the Southeastern Section comprising those states south of Maryland from the east coast to the Mississippi river, and beyond, including Arkansas and Louisiana, the Central Section comprising those states west of Pennsylvania and east of Colorado (and those provinces of Canada north of this section), and the Western Section comprising those states west of Nebraska (and those provinces of Canada north of that portion of the US). To view the map and read about how to host a sectional meeting, click here.

Typically there are two sectional meetings in each section each year. These are organized by the cognizant Associate Secretary. There is a Program Committee for each Section. Such a sectional meeting usually runs for two days, with four Invited Addresses and as many Special Sessions as time and space allow.

International Meetings

From time to time the Society co-sponsors joint meetings with sister mathematical societies in other countries. For example the Society has sponsored jointly with the Mexican Mathematical Society a meeting held in Mexico every odd numbered year since 1993, and every 3 years beginning in 2001. The AMS policy is to hold at most one international meeting per year, not counting those with Mexico. Societies interested in exploring whether to arrange a joint meeting with the AMS should contact the Secretary at

The scientific activity of each such meeting is under the control of a special program committee that usually consists of an equal number of members from each of the participating societies. The AMS assigns an Associate Secretary to such a meeting in order to facilitate the communication between the Society and the host organizations.

The program at such a meeting is somewhat similar to that of a sectional meeting, with Invited Addresses, Special Sessions, and sessions for contributed papers.

The remainder of this manual is devoted to the details involved with organizing and administering a Special Session at one of the meetings described above.


A Special Session at a Society meeting is a collection of papers devoted to a single topic or area of mathematics.

The papers are usually twenty minutes long, but can be longer. The Council has stated that no paper at a Special Session can be as long as an Invited Address. Since Invited Addresses at Annual and Sectional Meetings are usually fifty (50) minutes long, this has been interpreted to mean that a paper at a special session cannot be longer than forty-five (45) minutes. Invited Addresses at International Meetings are usually sixty minutes long, so the interpretation is that a paper at a Special Session cannot exceed fifty minutes.

Special Sessions usually comprise two or three half days of sessions with about six papers during each half day.

The Council has encouraged organizers of Special Sessions to consider including one expository paper on the subject of the special session that introduces the topic to non experts.


Each meeting of the Society is the responsibility, administratively, of one of its four associate secretaries and a meeting specialist on the staff of the Society's Meetings and Conferences Department (MCD).

Special Sessions at National Meetings are under the general supervision of the Program Committee for National Meetings (PCNM). In accordance with recommendations from the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees (ECBT), the PCNM acts as a selection or screening body and must give formal approval. The PCNM has delegated all except final approval to the associate secretary.

By convention, each person invited by the Society to deliver an Invited Address is also invited to organize a Special Session on the topic of the address. The Short Course Subcommittee of the PCNM also recommends a Special Session be organized to coordinate with the Short Course. These invitations should either be accepted or declined two weeks before the general deadline for Special Sessions. These proposals are in addition to those received from volunteers in the mathematical community.

All proposals are submitted through a page on the Conference Exchange (Confex) site. The associate secretary in charge of that meeting collects all proposals for Special Sessions, including those volunteered, about nine months in advance of the meeting and submits them to the PCNM for final approval. The associate secretary notifies all proposers of the decision of the PCNM, and makes further arrangements for holding the sessions with the assistance of the meeting specialist.

Special Sessions at Sectional Meetings are under the general supervision of the Program Committee for that section, and administered by the associate secretary for that section. It is usual that the task of finding Special Sessions falls upon the associate secretary for that section. All proposals are submitted through a page on the Confex site.The Program Committee may decide to hold a meeting concentrating on a single topic. However, while all Invited Addresses would be devoted to one theme, this arrangement would not preclude having Special Sessions on other topics.

In general, Special Sessions are announced in the Notices and on the AMS website in the ``Meetings and Conferences of the AMS'' section as soon as approved by the Program Committee. No Special Session may be arranged so late that there would be no announcement early enough to allow anyone to submit an abstract to be considered for a Special Session before the stated deadline. Because of the necessary delays to bring information to the printed page, the information in the Notices may be several weeks old by the time the issue is mailed. Session information is published on the AMS website generally twenty-four hours after the Meetings and Conferences Department has been informed.

It should be made clear to all concerned that the AMS does not pay expenses for the speakers at Special Sessions, nor does the AMS pay for other expenses incidental to running Special Sessions, such as telephone calls, secretarial costs or postage, even if the organizer or host institution feels that program changes or other reasons seem to require such expenses.

It should also be clear that all meeting participants, including Special Session organizers and their invited speakers, are expected to pay a registration fee. In some cases, they may wish to invite a speaker who is not an AMS member, who may or may not be associated with the mathematical sciences, and who would not otherwise attend AMS meetings. Under these circumstances, they may contact the associate secretary in charge of the program who may authorize these participants to register at the member rate. Graduate students, whether AMS members or not, must register at the student rate. If an organizer feels that a speaker should not or cannot pay the registration fee, they or their designate are permitted to pay the fee on the speaker's behalf.


Proposals for Special Sessions should be submitted via the Confex site. There is a separate site for the national meeting and sectional meetings. Proposals should include session title, the 2-digit MSC# that most closely matches the topic of the session, organizers (names, affiliations, email addresses, with one organizer designated as the contact person for all communications about the session), a paragraph of description about the topic, and a list of potential speakers (these speakers need not have confirmed participation). This information should be sent electronically.


The classic type of Special Session consists of a number of formally scheduled twenty-minute talks in a given subject area (with ten-minute breaks in between), that are listed individually in the Program of the Sessions in the program book, Notices (annual meetings only), and on the AMS website (sectional and annual meetings). However, any talk may be longer, provided its length is less than that of an Invited Address (currently fifty minutes). The associate secretary should be informed as early as possible of any unusual or nonstandard procedures. Organizers should note the following resolution passed at the business meeting of January 19, 1972:

"that the American Mathematical Society will work actively for equal opportunities for women in the following areas: . . . the Society will include more women on Society programs and panels, including invited speakers and section chairmen . . . "

Also at its May 2007 meeting, the AMS Committee on Meetings and Conferences approved the following policy:

"The American Mathematical Society encourages organizers of meetings and conferences to seek participants and speakers from groups underrepresented in mathematics, and to include programs in which students and recent doctorates can participate."

Most papers presented in any given Special Session will be by invitation. However, papers may be selected in any one of four ways:

  1. The speaker is invited by the organizer. From 90% to 100% of the twenty-minute papers arise by this method, because it is generally too risky to rely totally on volunteers, especially if the subject is reasonably narrow.

  2. The speaker volunteers by submitting an abstract eight weeks before the usual abstract deadline requesting that the abstract be considered for inclusion. These abstracts are sent directly to the organizer. These abstracts vary widely in degree of suitability, but should be considered with an open mind. The organizer notifies both the associate secretary and the meeting specialist in Providence of the decision on the abstract. Any rejected abstracts are automatically considered for acceptance as a contributed paper, unless the author prefers to withdraw the paper.

  3. After receiving all the abstracts for a meeting, the associate secretary may suggest to an organizer that one or more of those submitted as contributed papers might be included in the Special Session. (This method is practical only for a Sectional Meeting). Again, the author should be notified of the acceptance well in advance.

  4. The Society's Committee on Meetings and Conferences suggests that Special Session organizers try to "include new Ph.D.'s, women and minorities in Special Sessions and to arrange social activities . . . at which the above groups would be especially welcome." The Council also encourages organizers to include graduate students among speakers and to insure diversity of speakers as much as possible.


Talks in Special Sessions cannot be listed in the program of the meeting unless there is a corresponding abstract in the associated issue of the journal Abstracts. It is the responsibility of the organizer to ensure that the speakers invited to participate submit abstracts via the AMS website by the stated deadline. Authors should keep in mind that abstracts should be informative enough to enable a person attending the meeting to decide which session to attend at a given time. Organizers and authors should be aware that there are simple guidelines regarding the suitability of abstracts as outlined in the Abstracts Policy.

Electronic submission of abstracts is required via a Confex page that includes step-by-step instructions. Submitters may preview all their data, including a display of how the published abstract will appear, before the final submission step. LaTeX coding is allowed; however, knowledge of LaTeX is not necessary in order to take advantage of this system. See http:///abstracts/. Each day on which abstracts are received for a given session, the organizer will receive a cumulative list of all abstracts to date for the session, including authors and titles. They should monitor these lists carefully as they serve as good tools to keep track of who has submitted abstracts. NOTE: Some authors who would like their talks to be considered for your session may submit abstracts electronically without first requesting if they can be accommodated. Organizers should be on the alert for these abstracts. It is up to the organizer to notify both the author and the meeting coordinator whether these abstracts have been accepted for the session or not. The meeting specialist will move the talk from your session to a session for ten-minute contributed papers only if you so advise.

It is worth reiterating that all abstracts must be received by the stated deadline. Speakers will not be scheduled unless an abstract is received and late abstracts cannot be accommodated. Organizers must stress this point to their invited speakers. (See the last paragraph of the "Options for Special Sessions" section for alternatives.)

Abstracts of all talks are also included in the program booklet distributed at the meeting for Sectional Meetings. For National Meetings, offprints of the journal containing the abstracts for the meeting are available to registered participants for the asking.


Organizers must send the associate secretary a list of speakers in the preferred order in which they should appear in the meeting program, either before or as soon as possible after the deadline for abstracts. Uniformity in scheduling times makes it possible for persons to attend a twenty-minute talk in one Special Session and then move on to a twenty-minute talk in another. While talks are usually twenty-minutes with ten-minute breaks, Special Session talks may be longer. Special Session talks cannot be as long as an Invited Address.

For Sectional Meetings, Special Sessions should not conflict with Invited Addresses, and the number and length are limited essentially by the space and time available.

For National Meetings, the number of Special Sessions is limited by the number of rooms and time slots. In general, Special Sessions are scheduled for two to three half-days, and sometimes therefore can accommodate no more than twelve to eighteen twenty-minute papers. There is no room in the program for longer or extra sessions.

Authors and their affiliations (with the presenter indicated by an asterisk in the case of multiple authors) and titles of talks will be published in the program along with days and times. This information also appears in the Notices (annual meetings only) and on the AMS website. Authors are also designated by some sign (such as *) in the list of presenters in the meeting program to set them apart from contributed papers or Invited Addresses.


Some organizers may prefer to use their allotted time on an informal basis. In general, only the topic and name of the organizer would be printed in the program. The possibilities are numerous, including the following:

The organizer may simply regard the time for the session as "free" time for people in a given field of mathematics to get together to discuss that topic. This can be very effective in a rather narrowly defined field, particularly if the organizer makes an effort to get out the well-established and successful people in the area and encourages them to be available to younger people.

The organizer might elect to invite speakers to give talks of an informal sort. These talks would not be based on abstracts published in the journal Abstracts (so therefore no speaker names would appear in the program) and so would not follow the pattern of a conventional talk. A one-person problem session would be one possibility. Another would be a talk on the blind alleys and pitfalls in attacking some classic unsolved problem.

The organizer could arrange for a panel discussion on some aspects of the field and encourage audience participation. Names and affiliations of panelists appear in the program.

The organizer could announce a general problem session in which members of the audience are invited to pose research problems.

The Committee on Meetings and Conferences encourages organizers of Special Sessions to arrange informal discussions in the research area with young mathematicians and members of underrepresented groups. These disciplinary discussion groups might take place after a Special Session.

As indicated above, a session can be partly formal and partly informal. For example, it sometimes works out well to have formal talks alternate with informal sessions of the first type above. A problem session of either the one-person or general variety is frequently a good adjunct to a session of twenty-minute papers. Such a problem session can either be worked into the program or, if something ambitious is desired, a separate half-day can be used for the purpose.

In the interest of public information, it is desirable to publicize in the program of the meeting any events planned in advance, so these informal sessions should appear labeled as such in the program. The purpose of making a session informal is not to conceal what will take place in it.

Occasionally an invited and desirable speaker fails to submit an abstract in time, but is going to appear in any case. Then one can schedule a "problem session" for that time at which this "desirable speaker" would normally appear. It would be most desirable if the speaker submitted an abstract, but the occasional occurrence allows for this practice.


At national meetings, the usual audiovisual equipment provided for Special Session speakers includes a screen and a LCD projector for projecting presentation slides. Because of extraordinarily high costs, requests for extra equipment cannot be filled automatically. Just after the abstract deadline for the meeting, please ask your speakers if they expect to need additional audiovisual equipment for their talks. Please contact the meeting specialist that oversees audiovisual requests for the meeting well in advance. They will seek the necessary approvals for expenditures and make the extra arrangements. Please note that approvals for extra expenses are made on a case-by-case basis and cannot be guaranteed. In order to keep meetings affordable, some requests may not be granted. Due to the exorbitant additional late charges, requests made on site cannot be accommodated. White or blackboards are not available at national meetings.

At sectional and international meetings, it is also customary to provide one overhead projector and screen. Requests for additional equipment are handled on a case-by-case basis and subject to what the local hosts are able to provide with perhaps limited resources. Requests should be made to the meeting specialist in the Providence office. If sessions are held in classrooms, blackboards are usually available.


Special Session organizers may consider publication of a proceedings volume based on presentations during their sessions.  A possible outlet may be the AMS Contemporary Mathematics series. Session organizers are invited to submit proposals, which will be reviewed by the series Editorial Committee.  Interested organizers should send an email to the AMS Acquisitions Department ( describing their proposals and asking for further information. The AMS reserves the right of first refusal to publish any proceedings of sessions at its meetings; any presenter solicited by another publisher should notify the AMS Acquisitions Department before making any commitments. 


The associate secretary is the person to whom any question about the scientific program and/or matters of policy should be referred. Any other questions regarding the meeting and/or a session should be referred to the meeting specialist. A list of the current associate secretaries follows:



          Brian D. Boe, Associate Secretary
          Department of Mathematics
          University of Georgia
          220 D W Brooks Dr
          Athens, GA  30602
          Telephone: 706-542-2547


          Professor Betsy Stovall, Associate Secretary
          Department of Mathematics
          University of Wisconsin-Madison
          480 Lincoln Drive
          Madison, WI 53706-1388
          Telephone:  608-262-2933


           Professor Michelle Manes, Associate Secretary
           American Institute of Mathematics
           Pasadena, CA 91101
           Telephone: 626-395-2287


          Professor Steven H. Weintraub, Associate Secretary
          Department of Mathematics
          Lehigh University
          Bethlehem, PA 18015-3714
          Telephone:  610-758-3717 (Office)
          Fax:   610-758-3767


The editors of Abstracts of papers presented to the American Mathematical Society have adopted the following policy:

In order to be accepted for publication, an abstract must have mathematical content. It should not contain libelous, defamatory or tasteless remarks, commercial promotions, nor political or religious arguments. The AMS assumes no responsibility for the content or inappropriate remarks in any published abstract.
Papers intended for presentation at any meeting of the Society shall be passed upon in advance by a program committee appointed by or under the authority of the Council, and only such papers shall be presented as shall have been approved by such a committee. In order to adhere to this rule and to efficiently process abstracts for meetings, deadlines will be strictly enforced.
If the paper itself is not in form for publication, the words "Preliminary report" should follow the title. If the paper is in form for publication, it is hoped that the author will be willing to supply preprints to individuals upon request. Authors should also determine if their papers are accessible to undergraduate students and make the notation on the form.

Note also that the Council of the Society has adopted the following policy:

Editors for journals of the American Mathematical Society are expected to follow the Society's ethical guidelines, treating all potential authors with reasonable professional courtesy, responding promptly to submissions and making decisions based on the merit of the paper as well as its suitability to the journal. Editors are not obliged, however, to provide a rationale for not accepting a paper, nor are editors obliged to provide an author with a detailed list of errors and corrections. When information is available to help the author improve a paper, whether it is accepted or not, the editor should communicate that information to the author if appropriate.

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Revised [010817] Robert J. Daverman