Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles contained in the Academy News are those of the identified authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Academy.
Source: Jeri R. Ropero-Miller, PhD, 2020-21 AAFS President
I want to thank everyone for their continued support and understanding during these unprecedented times. As you are aware, the AAFS Board of Directors (BOD) and staff are working continuously to provide the best and safest 73rd Annual Scientific Meeting in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The AAFS Board of Directors has made the very difficult decision to convert the 73rd AAFS Annual Scientific Meeting to a virtual format that will be held as scheduled February 15-20, 2021.
This decision is not taken lightly. The BOD has been monitoring the situation on the ground in Houston for several months. We remain committed to everyone’s health and safety. In addition, we have considered contractual and financial impacts; the current uncertainty regarding national, state, or municipal directives or executive orders precluding large gatherings; corporate and governmental travel restrictions; and the feedback of our membership and other meeting attendees.
We conducted a survey in late July to gauge the potential impact of the current situation on conference attendance. Nearly 3,600 individuals responded representing the AAFS membership and non-members who attended an annual meeting in the last two years. The response indicated an opinion reversal that supports our decision to go virtual. The majority of respondents (63.0%) indicated that prior to March 2020, they were “likely to very likely” to attend the AAFS Annual Scientific Meeting in Houston, TX, February 2021. Today, the same percentage (62.8%) indicated that if the meeting was held as scheduled, they were “unlikely to very unlikely” to attend, and another 18% were “undecided.” Of those “unlikely” to attend, nearly 90% cited COVID-19, travel concerns, or meeting location as an explanation for their decision.
AAFS wants to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the 2021 AAFS Annual Scientific Meeting and believes that early planning of a virtual annual meeting is the best path forward. The AAFS BOD and key staff have been meeting with technology companies that have the ability to conduct most components of the meeting virtually. We are in the final selection and contractual process. The Executive Committee has been convening weekly to discuss the critical aspects of a 100% virtual meeting such as:
- Realistic Meeting Agenda
- Receptions and Networking Activities
- Workshops, Special Sessions, and Scientific Sessions
- Exhibit Hall
- Engaging, Flexible, Scalable, and Reliable Event
We are excited to share that we can provide most offerings of an in-person meeting for our Virtual Program and we strongly encourage everyone to continue to submit abstracts for workshops and scientific presentations. In addition, there will be unique program offerings that take advantage of the virtual experience. We have extended the Abstract Deadline to October 8, 2020. Your 2021 Program Committee has been working diligently and will continue to do so. Please join us in thanking everyone for their dedication and exceptional work. For information on how to submit an abstract, click HERE
This is a fluid situation, and we are exploring all options to provide our members, attendees, and exhibitors the best conference experience in February 2021. We will continue to provide up-to-date and rapid communications.