What are the most rewarding, informative, and enjoyable parts of face-to-face conferences for many people? Obviously, learning about other’s research, sharing our own work, and seeing innovative and cutting-edge scholarship is central. Networking and making contacts are also crucial, particularly for young scholars and new members. But there are a host of additional “intangibles'' that also play important roles in making our conferences so gratifying. Among them are the opportunities to connect or re-connect with former colleagues to talk about our research, our teaching, our current interests, or just our lives and our personal situations. We also often enjoy “skipping out” at times to explore the locale, to visit attractions, and to sample from new restaurants. And, of course, the many new colleagues we meet and connections we make serve to make our conferences exciting by expanding our networks, giving us new ideas for scholarship, and affording potential collaborations.
Many of the intangibles that make our conferences gratifying depend on how the conference setting allows for interactions. For example, chance encounters with old friends in the hotel lobby are met with smiles and hugs. Grabbing a meal with a friend in the conference restaurant between panels allows us to catch up and to make plans for a longer visit. And, of course, the hotel bar is often a meeting place for more informal (and fun!) interactions.
With COVID-19 as a continuing crisis, it is now essential for us to consider how these intangibles may work with safety measures in place. Will local attractions be available? Will the hotel continue to provide a restaurant and bar? Will local eating establishments be open? Will any receptions or social gathering be possible? These questions come in addition to possible restrictions vis-à-vis number of people in a room (oh, the nostalgia of a crowded session standing with 10 people in the door opening), the distance between chairs, the number of people in lifts, walking routes from conference rooms, expanded time required to disinfect rooms between sessions, possible mandatory testing and temperature checks. All of these, and probably more considerations, next to the ever present public and participant health concerns, are facing us as we plan for #ica21 in a hybrid format.
We will be completely honest with you as an ICA community. We really, really would love to meet in person, at least partially, in Denver in May. But as things look now (October 2020) we also have to seriously consider the option that the hybrid #ica21 ends up being virtual #ica21. Much of this may be out of our control, as universities impose restrictions on travel and/or reimbursements, and many may not be able to get visas due to COVID restrictions. We will keep that fallback option very present as we continue to plan. And we will take a decision on whether to go ahead with hybrid or move to online fully as soon as we can, in the light of the many moving parts, keeping it in the forefront of our minds that the sooner we are able to make a clear determination, the better for everyone involved.
No matter which direction we end up heading, we are in this together. No matter whether hybrid or online, we really need each other as an association and as individual scholars. No matter the format we will do our best to create a sense of belonging, a sense of community, and venues for connecting, networking and being ‘in touch’. Whether the online portion of the conference ends up being just part of a hybrid offering or 100% of the interaction, we are confident that we have selected an amazing platform for the virtual (part of the) conference. Our new platform is easily searchable down to exact phrases in presentations, can house presentations indefinitely if desired so they can be cited later, and has built-in captioning and transcription, with an opportunity for authors to make corrections. Best of all, the platform “plugs in” to ScholarOne, meaning that NO VIDEOS WILL BE LOST; you will log in to ScholarOne and upload your video directly to your accepted presentation slot, and it will automatically go right where it belongs. More on all of this later, but whether the virtual portion ends up being the entire conference or just a part of it, we guarantee that the experience will be smoother and less stressful than ICA20. This is no longer “our first rodeo”!
This is where we stand today. We hope that many of you are able to submit work by the November deadline. We see that many Interest Groups and Divisions engaged with the recommendation to also consider work in progress. For many of us, research is something that has been, at best, very sporadic since March 2020.
We will keep updating you as we move along towards #ica21. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out to us with ideas, concerns or suggestions. We are all in unchartered territory.