Updated 11/23/2020

SSWR 2021 Annual Conference, Social Work Science for Social Change, January 19 – 22, 2021, Virtual Conference

General Information

What is the background of the 2021 SSWR Annual Conference?

Since the first meeting held in 1996, SSWR has hosted an annual meeting for its members and the social work research and social work community at large. Through its annual meetings, which draw attendees from countries throughout the world, SSWR is dedicated to the advancement of social work research while serving as a network and forum for its members and attendees. Our members and attendees include faculty in schools of social work and other professional schools, research staff in public and private agencies, and masters and doctoral students.  The attendance at the annual conference averages 2,000.

The theme for the 2021 conference is “Social Work Science for Social Change,” which recognizes the 25th anniversary celebration of SSWR’s annual conference. Social work is unique as a discipline and profession in its commitment to understanding social issues and advancing ideas and approaches that improve the human condition. At this anniversary conference, we will take stock and look forward. We will weave across all sessions, presentations, and posters an emphasis on how social work science has and has not contributed—and can better contribute—to social change.

The objectives of the conference are to:

  • Recognize policy and program impacts of social work research at the local, state, national, and international levels over the last 25 years by social work scholars;
  • Advance social work as a discipline by reviewing the collective impact and potential for social work science; and
  • Center racial equity and social justice in social work research, policy, and practice.

Why did SSWR decide to move the in-person conference to a virtual meeting?

October 5, 2020, the SSWR Board of Directors announced, after monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects globally and nationally, that the 2021 annual conference would not be held in San Francisco, CA, as originally planned, but that the entire conference would take place virtually.  For details on the Board’s decision-making process see the October 5, 2020 letter to the membership at https://sswr.org/2021-conference-home/5604-2/.

The conference committee has developed an energizing conference program with an outstanding roster of keynote and plenary speakers; and abstract-based “lightning” research presentation sessions.  Our mission is to make the conference a place for attendees and presenters to engage in rich conversations and exchange ideas.  The SSWR conference committee is planning to take advantage of innovations in virtual programming. The virtual meeting will offer opportunities to interact with speakers and participate in scientific sessions.

What are the NEW DATES of the 2021 Annual Conference?

The dates of the meeting are now January 20-22, 2021! Moving to a virtual meeting has allowed us to adjust the dates in response to requests to respect personal and family time on the weekend. Pre-conferences will also shift to virtual meetings and will be held on Tuesday, January 19, 2021.

What are the post-conference sessions?

In addition, to the January 20-22, 2021 virtual conference, SSWR will be holding a weekly series of post-conference sessions in 2021.  The live, post-conference sessions will include thirty-five (35) abstract-based workshops, fifty to sixty (50-60) Special Interest Group (SIG) Meetings, and (28) poster forums, one for each cluster. A call for proposals for 2021 SIG meetings was issued November 16, 2020. These sessions are included in your conference registration. Please note you must register by January 22, 2021 to take advantage of attending as many of these sessions as you would like.

Whom should I contact with questions?

Please direct all questions to SSWR’s Program staff at info@sswr.org.


What are the registration fees for the 2021 Annual Conference?

Registration fees are now posted at https://sswr.org/2021-conference-home/registration-information/. The 2021 registration fees are approximately 50% of in-person meeting fees.

Who needs to register for the 2021 Annual Conference?

All attendees and participants must register. All presenters/speakers must register for the conference and be a current 2021 SSWR member at the time of their presentation(s). This includes ALL oral paper and poster presenters, symposia organizers, symposia paper presenters and discussants, and workshop and roundtable speakers.

When can I register for the 2021 Annual Conference?

The registration site will open in early December 2020. We will send a listserv and post on the website when registration is open.

I have a question about registration. Whom should I contact?

After the online registration site opens, please direct all registration questions to SSWR’s Registration team at sswr@travelink. If needed, options for registering off-line will be available.

Will there be a code of conduct for the 2021 Annual Conference?

Yes! The SSWR Anti-Harassment Policy and Code of Ethics and Procedures for Review of Member Conduct  (https://sswr.org/about-sswr/sswr-anti%e2%80%91harassment-policy/) shall be in effect.  As needed, revisions may be made to accommodate the virtual conference environment.  We will update members and attendees.

Presenting Virtually

I am a speaker/presenter and need guidance on how to present virtually. What should I do?

We will communicate via email with all speakers and presenters to provide details for presentation requirements and guidelines in the virtual conference format. See the Revised and Final Presenter Guidelines and Instructions.

How will oral papers, symposia, roundtables, workshops and posters be presented virtually?  

SSWR’s Virtual Conference will be presented on a platform that will afford presenters a means for dissemination and engagement with others. See the Revised and Final Presenter Guidelines and Instructions.

Will there be opportunities for informal meetings and discussions?

Yes, virtual platforms now offer a variety of opportunities for informal meetings and discussions. At the 2021 Annual Conference, you will be able to interact with speakers and participate directly in scientific sessions. We are also recreating our very popular Doctoral Student Panel and the “Meet the Scientist” session in a virtual setting so students can connect with each other, and with early and mid-career, and senior scholars. Please note participation in the “Meet the Scientist” session is limited and requires separate registration (no additional fee).

Will there be SSWR pre-conference research methods workshops and special sessions on research priorities and capacity building sessions?

Yes, pre-conference workshops and capacity building sessions will be held on Tuesday, January 19, 2021. Separate registration is required for these sessions; registration fees are about 50% less than the in person conference.

Exhibitors and Advertisers

Will there be an opportunity for exhibitors and advertisers to participate in the virtual conference?

No, for the 2021 virtual conference SSWR will not be offering exhibitor and advertiser opportunities.  We look forward to working with exhibitors and advertisers in 2022 when the SSWR Annual Conference will be held January 12 – 16, 2022, in Washington, DC.

SSWR 2021 Abstract Submissions FAQs

  1. What is the abstract submission deadline?

The deadline has been extended for one more week from April 30 to May 8.

  1. What are the criteria for evaluating abstracts, and does one criterion have more weight than others?
  1. What are the abstract format types?
  • Oral paper presentation (which are grouped into sessions of 4-5 papers)
  • Poster presentation
  • Symposium of three or more papers on the same topic to be presented in the same session
  • Roundtable
  • Workshop

Detailed descriptions are at https://sswr.org/2021-conference-home/abstract-submissions/#types

  1. Do different types of abstract formats have higher or lower chances of getting accepted? For example, does a symposium (panel of three or more presentations around a singular theme) have a higher chance of getting accepted than an individual oral presentation?

Each year acceptances are based on the number of abstract submissions, overall quality of abstracts and the number of available meeting rooms. Acceptances by format are based on our standard guidelines on how many sessions have been allocated for each format. For example, out of 300 sessions for the total program, 20-25% would be symposia and 40-45% grouped oral papers of 4-5 papers.

  1. Are my chances lower if I submit for an oral presentation instead of a poster presentation?

Poster presentation acceptances are based on the overall quality of abstracts and the number of ePoster stations. Generally, the acceptance rate for posters is higher than oral presentations.  We recommend that when you submit an oral paper presentation that you indicate that you are also willing to present as an oral presentation.  This will increase your chance of acceptance.

Every year, we receive a different pool of abstracts, so there isn’t a “set” formula for acceptances. What is important to note is that if the abstract submissions increase overall and/or in each format, the chances of being accepted may be lower and the inverse may be true. Our key strategy is to assess the overall quality to ensure that acceptances are balanced across all formats.

  1. How are abstracts reviewed?

There are two stages of review. In the first stage the abstracts are reviewed by two reviewers.  The reviewers do not know the names of the authors.  Make sure not to include any identifying information in your abstract.  The second stage is handled by the cluster co-chairs who review the abstract scores within their cluster and in relation to the scores across all clusters.  The cluster chairs make recommendations as to which oral papers are grouped together into an oral paper session and make recommendations as to which abstracts would contribute to the overall conference program and therefore, accepted within their own cluster.  Overall, the cluster chairs are working to develop a high quality and well-balanced program.

  1. What are your recommendations for submitting an interactive workshop (vs. an oral presentation, a symposium, poster, roundtable) abstract?

Please review the Call for Papers at https://sswr.org/2021-conference-home/abstract-submissions/ and the section on workshop requirements which indicates the objectives of workshop abstract submissions.

We recommend that you review the abstract review criteria at https://sswr.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/SSWR2021ReviewerRatings-final.pdf pertaining to workshops so that you are familiar with how workshops are reviewed and scored.

  1. How strongly should abstracts reflect or be in alignment with the specific theme of the conference? Will it give abstracts an advantage or edge if they do?

The abstract review criteria do not include a specific criterion on how an abstract may align with the annual conference theme. However,  please review the Call for Papers at https://sswr.org/2021-conference-home/abstract-submissions/ that articulates what the 2021 conference program is looking for. Reviewers may factor this in their reviews.

  1. Which clusters or topics often receive the most proposals? How about the clusters and topics receiving the fewest proposals? In other words, what research gaps are the conference organizers looking to fill?

Each cluster receives a varying number of submissions every year. However, the Adolescent and Youth Development, Child Welfare, and Violence against Women and Children clusters receive the highest percentage of abstract submissions. The Indigenous, Military, and Sustainable Development clusters tend to have the lowest percentage of submissions.

  1. How should my abstract be structured for submission?

Please see https://sswr.org/2021-conference-home/abstract-submissions/#types that lists the different components for each format. Sample abstracts are available at https://sswr.org/2021-conference-home/abstract-submissions/#sample.

  1. How do I decide which cluster/topic to submit my work under when it may fall into multiple categories?

The decision-making of selecting the most appropriate cluster/topic to which you submit your abstract is up to the author. SSWR does not assist in this process. However, we do make an effort to reassign abstracts to the appropriate cluster, when and if cluster co-chairs think that the abstract is a better fit within another cluster.

  1. Is it ok to submit work that is not fully analyzed?

No, it is not OK to submit work that is not fully analyzed. See the submission instructions: Abstracts should not be based on research previously published elsewhere. Please note that only paper and poster abstracts reporting completed findings will be reviewed. We urge that studies with “findings pending” be submitted for future review after the study is complete. Peer reviews will be used to select submissions based upon technical merit and importance of findings.

  1. What are common mistakes to avoid when submitting an abstract?

Common mistakes could be the following:

  • Incomplete submissions. Submission steps are not fully completed. If your submission is complete, you should have received an email confirmation. If you didn’t get an email receipt, then your submission was not completed and submitted.
  • Submissions that do not follow the guidelines and structure may be disadvantaged for acceptances.
  • Poor cluster fit. Confer with colleagues with abstract acceptance experience to determine the best cluster fit.
  1. How many abstracts do they receive each year? What is the acceptance rate?

Abstract submissions are in the 2,400-2,500 range. Depending on many factors such as the total number of abstract submissions, availability of meeting spaces, and overall quality of abstracts, the acceptance rate ranges from the mid-60s to low-70s percentages.

Please note each cluster is allocated an equitable acceptance percentage based on the total submissions within each cluster. Regardless of the number of submissions to each cluster, the acceptance rate is approximately the same across all clusters.

  1. How do qualitative abstracts need to appear vs quantitative abstracts?

Call for Papers:

Research abstracts are encouraged in all substantive areas, using scientifically sound qualitative and/or quantitative methodology. The research may take place in any country and at the micro, macro, or policy level. This year’s conference theme is cross-cutting by population, problem and substantive areas, as well as methodological expertise and as a result, we encourage submissions across all clusters as they pertain explicitly to the impact of social work research in the form of proposals for individual papers and poster presentations, symposia, roundtable discussions, and workshops.  

  1. What are reviewers specifically looking for in the methods section of the abstract? What can be left out?

Please see https://sswr.org/2021-conference-home/abstract-submissions/#ins for the submission instructions that describe each element (e.g., background and purpose, methods, results, and conclusion and implications) in a submission for oral papers, posters, or symposium papers. Write each section clearly and concisely to maximize the 500-word limit.

References are not required, and if included count towards the 500-word limit. Image(s) and table(s) are not permitted in any abstract.


If you have further questions, please contact DeeJay Garringo, CAE, program director, dj@sswr.org or 703-352-7797, ext.2.

Scroll to Top