Sociology confession: I have never attended a roundtable session at ASA. A student asked me today how common it is for the audience for roundtable presentations are just the other presenters. I don’t know the answer. 20%? 50%? 80%? Anybody have an informed guess?

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

14 thoughts on “roundtables”

  1. N=1, but my roundtable last year was half the presenters (the other half did not come) and 2 other random people. We actually joined up with two other people who had no one else at their table. The rest of the room looked similar – a lot of tables with a handful of people, one or two with more.


  2. I’ve been to more than I’d like to admit. My experience is, if it’s not a specially advertised (for example “author meets critic”) session, it’s almost always only the other presenters. Maybe the random student. That said, when I was on the market, I got an interview based on randomly being at a roundtable with a faculty member from the school.


  3. I mostly don’t go to roundtables and have not been to many recently, but I have been to roundtables and seen roundtables with 30+ people hovering around them. This is typically when a “big name” person is put at a roundtable (it happens) or there is some really “hot” topic. But I think the mode is just the presenters.


  4. I’ve attended probably 6-8 over the last twenty years. Usually about 75% around the table have been presenters and organizers. But, they’ve been nice venues. At one back in the late 1980s I remember a table full of unknown presenters and guests, including Larry Iannaccone, Roger Finke, Mark Chaves…At another I found myself with Dan Lichter, Jim Kluegel, Gillian Stevens….Keep your nose to the grindstone, they say, it may redeem us.


  5. having been to my fair share, and organized the culture section’s last year, i’d say the mode is to have about as many people at the table as there are on the program. but sometimes presenters no-show, and often present-presenters bring a friend.

    please don’t no-show to roundtables! i have a friend who was the only person who attended her very first roundtable as a grad student, and it scared her off conferences for years. if you can’t go, email the other folks ahead of time & let them know.


  6. I’ve presented at four or five roundtables and, like others, they were usually attended by the presenters with the possibility for an additional person who is there with one of the presenters (such as a friend or an undergraduate’s faculty advisor).


  7. I remember presenting at a roundtable with five or six other grad students, and Harrison White. It was quite entertaining when we did the American thing of Going Around And Introducing Ourselves.


  8. I was a discussant at a roundtable last year. Only one of the presenters showed, but a senior faculty person from another institution showed up to hear the one presenter’s paper, and the three of us had a really nice conversation about the paper.

    I’m co-organizing the family section roundtables this year. If you are interested in being a discussant and have some expertise in this area, please contact me. Also, if you are a paper presenter, PLEASE cancel if you aren’t going to present – don’t just no-show! I think ASA should put a one or two year ban on ASA submissions by people who no-show. Other conferences do this, and it seems to cut down on bad behavior.


  9. Yes, I concur with scorrell (#11). You NEVER know who is going to show up at your round table. I would plan that the person you cite most (as long as they are still living) is gonna show up to listen to you. It has happened to me (presented status characteristics to Berger, Buzz and others). So while it might not happen, it COULD.


  10. I’ve done a few round tables, and there is usually 1 or 2 people who show up. I concur with scorrell. You never know. One was a foreign journalist was searching me out. He then wrote an article about my work. So it worked out great.

    My rule of thumb is that round tables are good for people with lax time budgets. As I’ve gotten older, I have more professional obligations at ASA’s, so I must allocate time to people who need face to face, instead of a round table with a small, possibly zero, audience. But if you have the time or are a grad student, go for the variance. You have to meet people somehow!


  11. I actually *like* to go to roundtables; you have a nice opportunity to discuss the work informally. I’ve seen a few empty ones (8:30am), but I think most have about 4 attendees in addition to the presenters, and on some occasions I’ve seen people pull up chairs from elsewhere to start a second ring. At ESS last weekend, the roundtable session I popped in on had 4 presenters, 5 non-presenters, and a great discussion.


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