FROM EMILY AKUNO, ISME PRESIDENT
Just under two years ago, when Covid-19 struck, ISME was forced to cancel a conference that was ready to go. With the hope that the world would have returned to normality, we embarked on preparing for Brisbane 2022. Unfortunately, the level of normality needed to ensure that we can stage a face-to-face conference with confidence and certainty in 2022 continues to elude us.
The confirmation of the conference being virtual is entirely COVID related and includes consideration of health concerns, the ability or willingness of members to travel, access to travel insurance and the potential continued disruption of travel due to further COVID outbreaks and the impact of lockdowns or other means to control any those outbreaks that governments might choose to apply.
Most importantly is the issue of equity and accessibility as not all countries have the same access to vaccines, which means a face-to-face conference would likely only be accessible for the vaccine-privileged.
By making this decision now we are able to put all our efforts into producing the best possible virtual event that we can while at the same time providing members with certainty prior to opening up the conference registrations.
I therefore formally advise the ISME membership that:
- The 35th ISME World Conference will be held virtually
- The World Conference dates of July 17-22 remain as planned
- The Commission pre-conference seminars will also be held virtually in the days preceding the world conference
- Both the conference and pre-conference seminars will offer all the professional development spaces and activities that members find in the regular face-to-face conferences
- The scheduling of sessions will ensure that all members have access to synchronous content during sociable hours each day of the conference
- This decision also allows ISME to meet the professional needs of its members through fully recognised presentations, proceedings and, albeit in a different format, the opportunity to network with others across the entire global ISME membership
- The move to virtual presentation format does not impact your submission or the current review process and that the modalities for access, presentation etc shall be communicated to members over the next couple of months
The next few weeks are going to be a busy time for the ISME office and the Conference Organising Committee as we work hand in hand with the conferencing service provider on the modalities of the conference. It will all be available to members prior to the opening of conference registration in mid to late January.
With this, dear colleagues, I wish to assure you that, though disappointed that we cannot meet face-to-face, we are encouraged by the resilient spirit of the human being that has seen us, collectively, learn how to manage our affairs in the circumstances that COVID-19 unleashed on us. We have heard stories from all over the world of individuals making the best of their rather bad situations, and we are convinced that we can build a positive and memorable event together in 2022. One of the opportunities I wish to celebrate from an online event is the possibility of meeting and engaging colleagues from across the globe. I believe we shall also be able to add some activities that we might not normally be able to do due to costs or physical limitations. But one key factor remains the need to maximise access and build on the principles of equity that we, as a society, espouse, and that is core to our Strategic Plan as well as Biennium theme.
I request you, therefore, to make time to consider this situation, with hope that we shall be able to achieve our objectives within the context that is being created.
I look forward to engaging with members in the immediate future as we roll out the various plans for facilitating the online conference.