It is difficult to believe that just a short time after we gathered in Seattle for the 2020 AAAS Annual Meeting in February, our world changed in immeasurable ways. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, AAAS leadership and staff have been monitoring the conditions and evaluating several possible scenarios for the 2021 AAAS Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. The theme of the 2021 meeting, Understanding Dynamic Ecosystems, took on a new and unexpected meaning as we examined how to maintain and enhance the many unique features of the AAAS Annual Meeting in a hybrid or virtual environment.
AAAS’ policies in response to the COVID-19 situation and how it has forced us to change our normal ways of operating have been guided by three overarching goals, in the following order of importance: 1) ensuring the health and safety of program participants, volunteers, and AAAS staff; 2) ensuring the continuity of critical operations; and 3) continuing to fulfill our mission through our programs, products, and activities. Using this framework, and in consultation with the Annual Meeting Program Committee, the Annual Meeting Local Committee, and our partners in Phoenix, we have decided to convene the 2021 Annual Meeting virtually, with no physical footprint in Phoenix.
We understand that this decision may be received differently: some of you may be relieved or even excited by the new possibilities of a virtual meeting, while others may consider it reactionary or made too far in advance. None of us know exactly what the future holds in terms of returning to a society where we can gather to celebrate and advance common causes. What we do know is that in order to convene an Annual Meeting that will combine compelling content, powerful professional development, and unparalleled networking opportunities in a virtual setting will require the full time and attention of the staff, committee members, and volunteers who make our meeting happen. Making this decision now affords us the greatest possible amount of our most valuable commodity to ensure success: time.
We know you will have many questions about how this decision affects the many different aspects of the Annual Meeting. Each of us has our favorite program, gathering, or seminar. We commit to being transparent and timely in our communication about the effects of this change. To that end, changes to the meeting program and format for scientific symposia will be announced in early June. The deadline for symposia submissions will remain July 14.
We hope that you stay safe and healthy during these times, and we look forward to sharing more information with you in the coming weeks.
Claire M. Fraser, Ph.D.
Chair, 2021 Annual Meeting
Sudip S. Parikh, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer, AAAS
Executive Publisher, Science Journals