This is my second year on the Pac APA program. Last year, we were getting ready to head to England (and, to be honest, going through the 'why did we want to do this?' stage). So I thought I'd put down some various thoughts about what goes into putting together the second largest philosophy conference in the States. These are not particularly well thought out or related, but rather just some observations.
1) It's a huge job. The final count isn't in yet because of the extended deadline from Irene, but there have already been 407 submissions for blind review. That's up about 12% just from last year. Even though there are nearly 30 people on the program committee, that's still a lot of submissions to referee. I've done 17 thus far. And this isn't to mention that 60+ invited sessions on the program, not to mention all the group programs.
2) The coordination on something this large must be exceeding difficult. One problem is that the Pac program committee is dependent on the national office for various things (they receive the submissions, for example, and then send them out west), and we all know how well organized they are.
3) It's largely a thankless job that most people don't even think about unless they've been on the program committee before.
4) Being the chair of the program committee must be orders of magnitude more work than just being on the program committee.
5) Even though there is a poster option starting this year, I've yet to see a poster submission.
6) There's a built in incentive for a large program. There is no suggested acceptance percentage, nor a cap on how many papers a given program member can accept. Given that (a) you referee submissions only in your area, (b) you tend to like your area and would prefer there to be more papers in your area than not, (c) the belief that the APAs are a great place for junior faculty and grad students to give papers and get good feedback, I suspect that these factors work together to produce an unintentionally large program.
7) I'm pretty sure that neither the national office nor the Pacific division enforce the wordcount on submissions. Perhaps I'm wrong here, but I don't think so. A person on the program committee can turn down a paper simply because it's too long, but that would require doing a wordcount on each PDF (which for me would involve cutting and pasting into Word) and I'm just too lazy.
8) Getting on the program is still largely, and unfortunately, a function of who you know. Say, as rough numbers, that there are 60 invited sessions, each involving 3 people. (This is conservative, as some invited sessions involve 5.) Say that 300 of the blind submissions are accepted. So far, that's 180 invited to 300 blind participants. But for each non-invited session, we still have to get a commentator and a chair. There is a database that we can use, but my guess is that it is more common for individuals to fill commentator and chair slots largely with people they know (remember, since we only referee sessions in areas where we work, we're likely to know someone we'd like to see at a conference that would be good to comment on a paper we've accepted). So my rough guess is that over half the people on the program are there because they are known by someone on the program committee. I don't think we intend for it to be that way, but I suspect that's what actually happens.