Congress 2021 goes Virtual

October 30, 2020

Dear colleagues,

Many things have changed since COVID-19 entered our lives, but one stubborn fact has remained the same: large, in-person gatherings are a public health risk. While we are all hoping for a breakthrough against the pandemic soon, public health officials are telling us it could be another year or more before we can safely go back to in-person meetings.

Congress is unique in many ways, but like thousands of other events around the world, it must respond to the realities of this ongoing global health emergency. Congress must adapt, just as we all have had to do, at home, with our colleagues, and in the classroom.

So today, I wish to inform you that the Federation, in partnership with the University of Alberta, will hold Congress 2021 entirely online. Together, we have a historic opportunity to demonstrate to the world that it is possible to have an equitable, accessible and environmentally sustainable virtual conference.

We arrived at our decision after spending the past few months carefully researching our options while listening to the needs of our members. The Federation is especially grateful for the extraordinary contributions of two Congress advisory groups: the Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization (EDID) and the Task Force on Congress Contingency Planning. A summary of their work to date is now being finalized.

The work carried out by the Congress Advisory Committee on EDID, under the leadership of its Chair Dr. Malinda S. Smith and Vice-Chair Dr. Noreen Golfman, has given us an invaluable opportunity to humbly listen and learn. What we heard was that EDID must drive all aspects of planning and implementation, and we will work with all associations to develop Congress-wide EDID principles and practices. We must create opportunities to highlight Indigenous scholarship and perspectives, and lead the conversation on decolonization and anti-Black racism. There is still a long way to go, and the EDID Committee’s work continues, but we are committed to delivering the most accessible, equitable, and inclusive Congress possible. We are committed to embarking upon the necessary process of decolonization alongside member associations and our Congress partners.

The Task Force on Congress Contingency Planning, co-chaired by Director of Congress and Events Laura Chajkowski and Congress 2021 Academic Convenor Dr. Michael O’Driscoll, benefited greatly from the input of association executive members from across the Federation, and association input during our Virtual Planning Meeting in September. As a result, the Federation and the University of Alberta will offer you the technical support and training you need so that you and your members can focus on presenting your research and engaging in important conversations. We will provide the best-in-class online conferencing platform, so that you can enjoy a seamless virtual experience and lifelike networking with your peers. And we will maintain high-level impact for researchers, students, scholarly organizations, and publishers, and continue to support interdisciplinary sessions, national and international keynotes and graduate students through funding opportunities.

When the largest gathering of academics in Canada goes online, it opens up a world of possibilities for its participants. Congress 2021 will bridge divides as it breaks down geographic borders, create an avenue for higher attendance to conferences and events, and greater membership retention and acquisition opportunities. Our attendees will enjoy increased visibility for their research, and more time to browse the open events catalogue, all from the comfort of their homes or offices, and without incurring financial or environmental costs for travel and accommodations. So please join us!

Thank you for your continued support. We look forward to welcoming you to make this Congress a ground-breaking, unprecedented event.

Patrizia Albanese

Chair, Board of Directors

Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences