As you know, our AAAL 2021 Houston conference is scheduled for March 20-23, 2021 and we have a stellar group of confirmed plenary speakers, invited colloquia and workshops, and other planned events. In addition, we have received hundreds of abstracts for the 2021 conference through the Confex proposal submission system. After the cancellation of the 2020 Denver conference, we all have been very eager to meet again in person and enjoy a wonderful conference together.
However, it is now clear to AAAL that this conference is impossible to hold due to COVID-19. The coronavirus has severely altered professional and individual lives. AAAL has monitored the developing situation and has determined that the conference can no longer be held as scheduled and agreed-upon because of this virus and its effects. Travel restrictions are in place which will prevent many attendees from reaching the conference, and spacing/distancing guidelines in place render the Hyatt Hotel unable to accommodate our conference space needs.
Therefore, the AAAL Executive Committee has decided unanimously to cancel the face-to-face conference in Houston and to launch a fully virtual conference instead, using a professional virtual conference company (TBA). We feel that this decision is our only option given current constraints in Houston and is, furthermore, in the best interest of our Association and our members and attendees.
Although this might be disappointing news, this decision does have many positive aspects. We believe that running a virtual conference, although new to many of us, constitutes a “social good,” especially under the circumstances, in that it is green (ecologically beneficial in terms of carbon footprints), inclusive (of people with chronic conditions, older members, international colleagues, those with childcare responsibilities), safe, more affordable, and innovative, and it will give all of us some much-needed peace of mind looking ahead to 2021.
We wanted to inform you of this decision now so that you can plan accordingly. If you did not plan to submit an abstract because of your own concerns around health, safety and travel, we urge you to reconsider. If you have already submitted for AAAL 2021 and you would like to revise abstracts to include people who were not planning to attend the Houston conference, you can do so. To give people more time to prepare or revise submissions, we are extending our submission deadline by two weeks, until July 29, 2020 (4 pm EDT). As a reminder, the Call for Proposals is found here: https://www.aaal.org/news/2021-call-for-proposals. All abstracts received by the new deadline will be adjudicated in the usual manner, with the assistance of our dedicated Strand Coordinators and reviewers. We are still counting on the same dates (roughly) for the fully virtual conference. In the next month we expect to have more details about the virtual platform.
On behalf of the UBC AAAL Conference Planning Team and the AAAL Executive Committee, I would like to thank you for your understanding and welcome your submissions to AAAL 2021 and your participation in our first virtual conference!
We will continue to give you updates as soon as we are able to. In the meantime, we urge you to visit our AAAL website
to take advantage of some of the wonderful content (webinars, short talks, etc.) that Kendall King, Jessica Atkinson, and AAAL committee chairs have arranged for our members this summer. Finally, we wish you well as you navigate these challenging times in your personal and professional lives.