SC is the primary international conference for high performance computing, networking, storage, and analysis. As a conference that has drawn well over 10,000 attendees for the past several years, planning for SC requires hundreds of volunteers working in many different areas. For an idea of the depth and breadth of the planning committee, consider the SC16 planning committee.
Serving on an SC planning committee can be a highly rewarding way to serve your professional community and to build your professional network. However, it isn't always obvious how to get and stay involved. Here are a few suggestions.
First, have realistic expectations. This advice applies both to the position you target and to the likelihood of your serving in multiple conference years. If you have not previously worked on the planning committee for SC or a similar-sized technical conference, expect to start in an “entry-level position.” For instance, a newcomer might be a reviewer for one of the Technical Program areas like Birds of a Feather, a member of a SCinet team, or part of the support group for the Student Cluster Competition. Do a good job, and you may "work your way up" to positions with more visibility and responsibility in future years.
Another aspect of having realistic expectations is to understand that even people who do a good job in one year may not be invited to serve in subsequent years. The conference must balance the need to include people with lots of “institutional knowledge” for conference continuity against the need to bring in new people to gain experience and to provide fresh perspectives.
Also, be sure to consider how much time you really have to volunteer, and at what points during the year. For instance, there are SC opportunities for people who can only work during the conference week, who are available only evenings and weekends during the year, who only have time during the academic year. It’s important to be realistic about your availability and to be responsive when needed, because SC is a high profile conference and there can be severe negative consequences if something doesn't work out as well as planned. People who are reliable, timely, and easy to work with are the most likely to advance to higher level positions.
So how do you express your interest in a particular position? There are several ways, some of them specific to the type of position you are seeking. One option is to contact a future chair to express your interest, at least 12-18 months before the work would actually start. Yes, you read that correctly: if you want to serve as a reviewer for the SC18 Research Posters committee, which has a submission deadline of July 31, 2018, you’ll need to identify and contact the SC18 Posters committee chair several months before SC17. The members of most SC committees (not just their leadership) are chosen and announced at least a year before the conference. So how do you identify next year's chair of your target committee? One way is to contact this year's committee chair, who generally knows who their successor will be.
Another way to get noticed is to serve in similar volunteer roles for smaller, but still well-regarded conferences. For example, when looking for committee members, the Architecture area chair within the Technical Papers committee may look at the program committees of other high profile architecture conferences for potential committee members. For Technical Program reviewer positions in particular, a third way to get noticed is to build a history of submitting your own work to SC. For instance, the Research Posters chair may look for potential committee members among the authors of recent years' accepted posters. These people are attractive because they have shown themselves to be active in their research areas and familiar with the submitter's perspective of the reviewing process.
Finally, just like in other aspects of professional life, networking (the professional kind, not the computer kind) can be useful. Making a good impression on the people in your corner of the community can only improve your chances when they, or one of their colleagues, are looking for members for their committees.
We appreciate your interest in serving on the SC planning committee, and we recognize it can be frustrating to express your interest but not be invited to serve. We hope that our suggestions are helpful, and wish you the best as you seek a position on a future SC planning committee.