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DS² 2021: Info for Speakers

My apologies for what is a much longer than usual document containing information for speakers; obviously logistical details become much more strange and much more important for an entirely-online conference! Bear with me and please do read through attentively. (When you get to the end, there’s an e-mail I want you to send me!) If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Talk Structure and Parameters

Regular talks are given a block of 45 minutes total, and keynotes a block of 90 minutes total. Within that block, however, you have total freedom, and we want to encourage you to think about ways to present your material that could take advantage of the online format.

Of course, a classic 20–30 minute talk (50–60 minutes for keynotes) with 15–20 minutes of discussion is absolutely an acceptable choice, and we’ll be happy to facilitate that. But if you would like to present your material differently, we would be very open to conversations about that. (To take just one example, you could present a short or pre-recorded “lightning talk” presentation of your project, and open up for a much longer, informal period of discussion with attendees.) This is a small and relaxed meeting, and we’re obviously all the sorts of people who are open to digital innovation in contemporary scholarship!

Note that the working language of the conference is English. We are a French-speaking institution, so it’s likely that some attendees will be Francophone; there will certainly be help available from other participants (myself included) if there are any translation worries.


If you do pre-record video, we encourage you to provide closed captions for it as well, though if you don’t have the time or capability to do this, we would be glad to pass your video through the online transcription service to which we’ve purchased access.

Unfortunately, Crowdcast does not yet support live-captioning. All talk videos posted on YouTube will be processed with Otter for captions. Like most such tools, Otter functions best with Standard American English. If you have another captioning process that you prefer (since many of us have had to learn these ropes for online lecturing), let us know! We’ll figure out how to integrate it.

Also, for visually impaired attendees (or even people who might be listening to the meeting while doing the dishes), we encourage you to describe anything extremely important on your slides, and avoid phrasing that wouldn’t be clear to someone who couldn’t see your mouse pointer.

Broadcast and Recording

The primary online platform for the conference will be Crowdcast, the platform that very successfully recently hosted the British Society for the History of Science’s online summer history of science festival. The way that we’ll use Crowdcast will look like this:

  • We will send you a Zoom link to which you can connect to give your talk.
  • In the Zoom room will only be myself (Pence) and possibly one or two other members of the technical support team.
  • The content from Zoom will then be broadcast over Crowdcast. You won’t interface with Crowdcast directly, and participants won’t interface with Zoom at all.
  • We’ll then relay questions to you from the chat on Crowdcast during the Q&A period.

There are two significant advantages to this system. For one thing, there’s exactly zero possibility of Zoom-bombing or similar kinds of security concerns. Nobody but you will receive the link to your Zoom room for your talk. Secondly, a Zoom call with a maximum of two or three participants, routed to my university internet connection, is likely to be much more stable than a Zoom webinar with all conference attendees.

This platform also allows us to transparently mirror talks to other streaming platforms; we plan to carry the meeting on YouTube Live as well. (Technical tests are ongoing; more information will be available here soon.)

We would like to post every talk as a video on YouTube in the evening after each day’s talks, but of course that choice remains with you. We’ll ask you to let us know if you’d rather not.


We are still pursuing the possibility of publishing the papers accepted for this conference in a special issue. Our current best idea for a journal that would be a suitable home for the results is Synthese. (Note that several of our presenters are engaged in a boycott of Elsevier, and hence we would prefer to avoid their journals for the moment.) We’re also still trying to figure out whether or not we can use some of our conference funding to attempt to “bulk purchase” open-access publication fees for the entire issue. We’d like to, if our funder will allow it.


Our initial plans for a companion workshop for discussion and commentary on the papers to appear from the conference appears, unfortunately, to be impossible in the context of the pandemic.

To-Do List

You’ve made it this far! Thanks for bearing with me! What we need from you, then, is to send an e-mail to charles@charlespence.net as soon as possible with the following:

  • A filled-in copy of our consent form, which is a standard document distributed by our university:
    • If you are willing to have your talk distributed via YouTube, this is the form to use.
    • If you would not like your talk distributed via YouTube, this is the form to use. (Recent experience with other online conferences indicates that there is quite a bit of engagement with these videos, so we’d encourage you to think carefully before declining.)
    • A basic (and non-binding) translation is available here, so that you know what you’re signing. The only difference between the two versions of the document is that one mentions YouTube and other video distribution platforms in addition to Crowdcast.
  • Do you have any particular date or time constraints? (For instance, are you in US Pacific time and would rather present later in the morning? Are you unavailable for part or all of one of our conference days?)
  • Are you interested in possibly submitting your paper to a special journal issue? If so, are you interested by the possibility of sending a proposal to Synthese, and/or do you have ideas for other journals that might be interested? We’re all ears.
  • Would you like your Twitter handle included in the conference program? Let us know what it is and we’ll add it.


To close, thank you! We know that this is a new meeting in a new, rather niche field, and we’re floored by the high quality of the abstracts that we received. We had to make some really difficult decisions to cut some talks that didn’t make it. Your confidence in the project means a lot to us.

— Charles Pence and Luca Rivelli, organizers