We are writing as the ASECS President and as ASECS Executive Director to inform you that our next annual meeting will be online. We do so with some regret. We, like many of our members, have woven the informal and collegial sociability of our meetings into our lives for many years. After the cancellation of the 2020 meeting in St. Louis, we hoped to be able to gather in person in Toronto in 2021. However, with the ongoing uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears unlikely that it will be safe to meet in large numbers, in person, next spring. At this writing, the border with Canada remains closed. In addition, continuing concerns about health and safety may make it difficult for members to commit to an in-person conference—especially now, as many of us face job loss, economic pressures, university spending freezes, uncertain travel and research funding, and other challenges. For these reasons, the ASECS Executive Board has decided to move our next annual meeting online. The meeting will run from Wednesday April 7 through Sunday April 11, approximately 6 hours per day, tentatively from 11 am to 6 pm EDT each day. A general schedule will be published in October.
We have begun to plan for an online experience that captures as much as possible the pleasures of our in-person conference. The virtual meeting will include paper panels, roundtables, plenaries, the business meeting, awards ceremony, book exhibit, coffee breaks, cocktail hours, and opportunities for caucus and affiliate breakouts/meetings.
We are contracting with an online conferencing company to develop a robust platform to support online registration, conference website development, and an app for the conference. There are many moving parts to this transition, and details are still being developed. The Annual Meeting webpage will guide you through the various changes.
Here are some initial changes to deadlines and the meeting format, and other information.
1. The deadline for submitting abstracts has been extended to October 1; the deadline for chairs to upload session information and request second sessions has been extended to October 15.
2. The Business Office will compile a list of sessions needing additional participants and share it with members by the end of next week.
3. Session time slots will be reduced to 60 minutes (to diminish “Zoom fatigue”).
4. Speakers on regular paper sessions will be required to record talks in advance. Chairs will screen the recorded talks at the beginning of the sessions. This will ensure that talks are available in the event of connectivity problems and allow for closed captioning. Twenty minutes of each session must be reserved for discussion with the audience.
5. Roundtables and plenaries will be presented live. Other format sessions are asked to consult with the business office.
6. The deadline for submitting pre-recorded presentations, and/or pdfs, for posting on session websites, will be in late March (at least two weeks before the Annual Meeting begins).
7. Tech support will be available to session chairs and members before and during the Meeting.
8. The registration fee scale will be announced later. Every ASECS Annual Meeting pays for itself; our principal expense this year will be a significant investment in the online conference platform and tech support. Happily, this is much less costly than our conventional conferences.
The Officers and Members of the Board look forward to seeing you in spring 2021, in our new online space, and we hope to see you in person in Baltimore in 2022.
William Warner, ASECS President
Lisa Berglund, ASECS Executive Director