A Happy New Year to all.
The Trustees met yesterday (28 January) for their first meeting of 2021. We felt it would be appropriate to update members on the early plans we have for the year ahead, which initially will see a continuation of the need for a flexible approach to planning our scientific meetings, whilst remaining as proactive as is feasibly possible.
Firstly, the trustees reviewed the financial position of the Society, and I am pleased to report we have entered 2021 in good order, despite the many challenges of 2020. However, the trustees approved a prudent budget for 2021, and also reviewed a longer-term budget for 2022, ensuring the Society has plans in place for any financial uncertainty, which may occur in the near future.
Our membership continues to grow, and trustees were very pleased to note the total number of members had increased over the past twelve months from 2,478 in January 2020 to 2,756 in January 2021. Trustees agreed to freeze any increase in membership fees for 2021.
I know many of you share my, and the trustees desire and enthusiasm to return to our face-to-face scientific conferences as soon as feasible. Our learned society exists first and foremost to bring people together within our discipline and despite the challenges of COVID-19, the Society remains firmly committed to meeting this key objective, with the assurance of membership safety. That said, the Society demonstrated in 2020 the ability to successfully host virtual/online conferences, and most importantly to pivot from a planned face-to-face format to a virtual/online format with little notice.
The key principle in our planning is always to ensure the Society continues to provide the highest quality platforms for the dissemination of nutrition science and that scientific conferences remain accessible to as many delegates as possible. The trustees are determined to deliver, for all delegates and at all meetings, an enriching experience. This includes not only access to the symposia, but also opportunities to present emerging research, network with other delegates, and hold peer-to-peer discussions.
The trustees agreed that ideally the Society’s 2021 summer conferences, NS Futures, and the winter conference will be held face-to-face, and they will ensure that the conference remain digitally accessible (hybrid meetings) for speakers and delegates who are unable to travel. Hybrid meetings allow for people to attend a physical conference, whilst also ensuring the ‘live streaming’ of as many of the plenary sessions, symposia and posters as possible.
Trustees noted there are still considerable challenges of the pandemic, so all meetings have a contingency plan for switching to virtual/online-only. Trustees are committed to supporting members by making “live vs. online” decisions well in advance and will clearly communicate registration and abstract submission dates– for example, the summer meeting decision date is mid-April. However, trustees are mindful that the planning of all conferences remains subject to short notice changes, the majority of which are outside the control of the Society. The priority of our trustees remains focused on the safety and well-being of anyone associated with the activities of the Society.
These remain difficult, unpredictable, times which call for pragmatic, carefully considered decisions. In addition, the situation is changing quickly which calls for frequent reviews of existing positions. Therefore, trustees agreed they would continue to meet more frequently in 2021 to ensure they continue to lead the Society in a proactive manner, as much as circumstances will allow.
I wish to pass onto you from the Trustees their assurance that all possible care and consideration continues to be taken, to safeguard everyone connected with the Society, whilst ensuring its long-term viability.
We learnt a great deal about our capacity and compassion as people in 2020, and our Society, through its members and staff, adapted extraordinarily well as and when required. The Society continued to deliver the activities to support the members in 2020, and trustees are confident such success will continue in 2021. On behalf of all of the Trustees, thank you for your understanding and continued support, and I look forward to meeting many of you throughout the year.