Associate Director, Libraries, Scholarly Communication, and Museums
The COVID-19 pandemic forced scholarly societies to reimagine one of their signal offerings: academic conferences. In response, societies experimented with virtual and hybrid meeting formats on a scale that was difficult to imagine before March 2020. One clear take away is that societies can no longer afford to focus exclusively on in-person gatherings. The potential advantages of virtual meetings–lower costs to participants and hosts, greater accessibility to a more diverse range of scholars, and a reduced carbon footprint, for example–ensure that virtual and hybrid events have long-term relevance and benefits that will extend beyond the pandemic. And yet the experiments begun in 2020 were not wholly successful, and sustainable blueprints and models for virtual and hybrid events remain elusive. Among the challenges societies face are how to finance and staff mixed-format meetings, and how to develop virtual and hybrid programming that can provide networking opportunities for members and serve as springboards for new scholarship. With generous funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Ithaka S+R and JSTOR Labs are organizing a cohort of scholarly societies to explore and develop the future of the scholarly meeting. Through a combination of primary research, collaboration, and design thinking, we will work together to address the business, content, and membership challenges faced when developing long-term planning for multi-modal conferences.