Reviewing for SysMus 2021

Having just completed a few abstract reviews for SysMus 21, I have a two thoughts I think are worth sharing.

The first is that the system the organizers used for doing the reviewing was fantastic. Very easy to log into, very easy to see what work had to be done, and a clear field for feedback that I will know will go directly to the authors. When I inevitably get roped into organizing a conference, I’ll return to this post just to re-find that link.

The second is a bit longer, but has to do with the idea of giving feedback.

As I have written about before, I think SysMus is the perfect conference for any grad students in the world of music and science. The community is unbelievably kind, the conference often offers workshops and talks tailored specifically for early career researchers, but most importantly the culture of the conference (in my opinion) is all about investing in the future of the community and training those existing in (or wanting to break into!) interdisciplinary spaces.

For those who are lucky enough to happen to find themselves in a educational environment where they have an adviser to guide them through the process how to write an effective abstract for this kind of conference, the fact that there has been some guidance on this is abundantly clear.

Though for others coming from more peripheral, but maybe not as typical of areas of research associated with music and science, the abstracts just read differently and don’t make the touch points needed to align with how one is supposed to evaluate “systematic musicology” abstract.

What then happens is that without this coaching on how to mould one’s research to communicate and resonate with a different community than one might typically submit to (often music analysis/theory), the field that would probably very much benefit from this new perspective is inadvertently stomped out.

This of course is a problem for trying to grow and expand who gets to have a voice in discussions in the field of systematic musicology and is a great example of (what I superficially understand to be) symbolic violence.

Thankfully the fact that you (as a SysMus reviewer) can write directly to the authors, you can give very direct and actionable feedback as to what they might do in order to be in more direct dialogue with a community they may not have as much experience talking to and whose perspective (were their voice to be present) is very much needed.

This is all to say that without either the ability to get direct feedback on what you do submit or having a dedicated space where an early career researcher can have a meaningful interaction with someone “outside” their “home” area of interest, getting the perspectives and voices we need going between disciplines is dead before it even gets a chance to get going.

Yes this of course takes way more effort on behalf of those giving the feedback, but it feels like the investment in the community will be deeply worth it down the road if people are serious about not having research commmunities be as insular.