Call for PERC 2021 Proposals

posted by On behalf of PERLOC on

PERLOC (Physics Education Research Leadership and Organizing Council) is soliciting organizers for the 2021 PERC in Washington, D.C.  If you are interested in organizing and you have an idea for a theme that will be of interest to our community, we’d love to hear from you! If you have any questions please feel free to email Erin Scanlon (, Chandra Turpen (, or Vashti Sawtelle ( Below we briefly describe what organizing PERC entails. More  info is here  


Details on previous PERCs may be found at If you want to learn more about organizing PERC before submitting a proposal, you can reach out to prior PERC organizers. 

What is the role of a PERC Organizer?

PERC organizational teams work with AAPT staff  and PERLOC to:

  • Developing the PERC theme
  • Soliciting plenary speakers
  • Managing all sessions at PERC

Soliciting plenary speakers, manage parallel sessions and juried talks, and support any other activities they feel will enhance the experience of the PERC attendees. Note that the juried talk process is relatively new and may still be undergoing revision. Additionally, there are some logistical components that are the responsibility of the PERC organizers, typically in partnership with AAPT staff; these include updating the PERC website and program, coordinating space and accessibility requirements for sessions and travel for invited speakers, coordinating deadlines with the PERC Proceedings editors, being aware of spending, and communicating about PERC to the PER community. 

To support the PERC organizers and to ensure PERC runs smoothly, PERLOC has created a standing PERC Coordination Committee. This committee consists of the PERC organizers, a member of PERLOC, relevant members of the AAPT staff, and a PERC Proceedings editor. 

How do I submit a proposal?

Interested teams should submit their 1-3 page proposals describing the organizers’ experiences with conference organization, the theme’s relevance to PER, and the vision for what the PERC theme will entail, including speakers and potential sessions, in PDF format by December 9, 2019 to Vashti Sawtelle ( with email subject line “PERC 2021 proposal”. You can also send questions about the proposal process to Vashti.

What happens after I submit a proposal?

PERLOC reviews all proposals and selects the organizing team with consideration for: 

  • Relevance and importance of the theme to the PER community 
  • Connection of the theme to new perspectives and/or outside communities 
  • Timeliness of the theme 
  • Thoroughness and feasibility of the proposal 
  • Ability of the team to execute the proposal 

PERLOC will officially announce its selection at the next AAPT Winter Meeting.

Re: Call for PERC 2021 Proposals -
Steve Maier
113 Posts

This was originally designed to be a separate blog post, but I did not want to take away priority or add too much to the length of the call for proposals.  So I'm adding it here as a reply.

Organizing a PERC: Comments from an Organizer Waist Deep in the Process

Romanticizing a bit

At the PERC 2018 evening poster session, I was visiting with presenters and weaving in and out of the traffic of thought provoking conversations, just like most everyone else.  Then at the end of the rows of posters, between the cash bar and the PERLOC “office hours,” I saw an otherwise blank wall divider with a few sheets of paper pinned to it. It was an open call for ideas for future PERCs!  Curiosity of others’ ideas drew me in...  

Reading the posted notes and remaining in the moment, there was something about that unassuming bulletin board that opened PER up to me in a new way.  Anyone could post an idea, as if to say that anyone engaged in PERC could serve as an organizer -- not just PER’s “heavy hitters.”  I shook my head at the thought, knowing my role in PER has been one of an onlooker and practitioner rather than a shaker and a mover.  Still, I added my own note about “pedagogical diffusion” because the notion of disciplines cross-pollinating and impacting one another resonates with me and I wondered if it did with others, too. 

Overcoming “obstacles”

That act, along with conversations with others, eventually led to becoming part of an organizing team and recruiting additional organizers to submit a PERC proposal draft.  The ins and outs of those interactions aren’t really fodder for a page turning newsstand novel, but here’s a quick rundown:  

  • Time was spent deliberating over whether or not the task was in my wheelhouse--so I hesitated  
  • Like everyone else, I have a lot of responsibilities that tax my time--so I had reservations
  • I’m more of a PER wallflower than recognized for publications/grants--so I had doubts
  • Deep down, I knew that committing to this effort would force me to engage in the community in a new ways--so I had motivation

In my case, motivation alone would likely not have been enough.  However, other PERC 20/20 organizers were (and remain) instrumental in helping me recognize there are meritable roles I can fill.  Encouraging me to pursue my own spaces to contribute to PERC 20/20, the organizing team has provided a form of validation that I suspect will always be a highlight for me.  I only hope I am returning the favor, because I am quite grateful.

And now, the realities of organizing...

Working on the main theme, brainstorming about our own spin on things, and working out the finer details with members of the organizing committee has required video conferences, email exchanges, and in-person conversations that would not have taken place otherwise.  While rewarding, these take time. And my advice would be that if you’re seriously considering organizing a PERC, be prepared to engage and set aside regular time in your schedule to do “PERC work.” It will not happen on its own.

Wrapping up with a pep talk

And, if permitted to be so bold, I would say this: If you’re a regular contributor, practitioner, or participant of PER, PERC needs you--consider becoming an organizer.  But there’s a less obvious and more salient point I’d like to draw from my perspective. So I’ll repackage the above statement in a way that helped motivate me to step forward: If you find yourself really looking forward to PERCs, its themes, and enjoy thinking critically about the sessions in the weeks/months following the return trip home, then PERC needs you.  This is especially the case if your voice is one that is not the most prominent in PER. Organizers interact in PER at a new level, making new connections and establishing new collaboratives. Your perspective could provide just the looking glass others may need to carry the discipline further.

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