The 2021 Summer Meeting – Plans for an online conference

Published online: 16 April 2021

From: Dr Bernard Corfe, Honorary Programmes Officer

"It was the Society’s ambition to be able to offer members and guests a hybrid Summer Conference on July 6-8 2021, jointly organised by the Society and the local organisers at Southampton University. This ambition was in line with the UK government’s ‘road map’ out of COVID-19, specifically that indoor conferences (at 50% of normal capacity) would be able to take place after 17 May and that social and other restrictions may be lifted on 21 June. The Society had provisionally secured a central location in London to host the hybrid conference.  

Unfortunately this conference facility remains cautious about hosting meetings for over 30 delegates (reduced from our planned 150) or was looking to delay until late August. Having reviewed these options with the local organisers, with key trustees and with Society staff, we have collectively decided that neither of these proposals are practical, and reluctantly we have agreed to host the Summer Conference as an online-only event in 2021. 

I understand that this will be disappointing news to many members who have over the past months expressed enthusiasm for the Summer Conference being an opportunity to meet face-to-face again with friends and colleagues after such a long period of ‘virtual’ events. However, we are greatly encouraged by the very positive feedback received for the Society’s successes in hosting virtual conferences during the pandemic, and already had a well-developed contingency plan to revert to the online format.

Moreover, our plan for the Winter Conference (being hosted at the Royal Society, London, 7-8 December) remains on track for a hybrid format, with preparations underway for a Spring Conference in Edinburgh in April 2022, an Irish Section Conference in Cork in June 2022, as well as a Summer Conference in Sheffield in July 2022. We will meet again! 

Finally, the Trustees will be considering at their next meeting (29 April) a grant scheme to support members who may wish create smaller local groupings to livestream the summer event and couple this to social and networking activities. The grant will cover the costs of hiring a suitable room and provision of some refreshments and catering. It will be open to groups registered for the Summer Conference and planning to gather together locally to view the online event. More details will follow soon. 

In the interim, I do hope you can join the Summer Conference on a virtual basis and that you will look to register soon, either as an individual or as a Group."