ASM 2020 – going virtual


Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, the SSM committee took the difficult decision to cancel the ASM as an in-person event in Cambridge and we instead decided to move the conference online. Back in April, we didn’t feel confident that a face-to-face meeting would be safe come September, but we still wanted to provide the fabulous opportunities the ASM offers our members and colleagues – from supporting the careers of our ECRs to providing a forum for lively discussion (including this year around the public health and social impacts of COVID-19 and lockdown). Time has shown that we made the right call on this, although moving to an online conference has been a very steep learning curve and already we are wondering about what is ahead for 2021.

Fee free ASM. In our early discussion about moving online, we were unsure what/how we would deal with the practicalities of a fully online conference and we made the decision, in the face of these uncertainties, to waive the compulsory attendance fee in 2020. Our aspiration was to make it possible for people to still have the chance to disseminate important grant-funded research, and also to make it as easy as possible for people to be able to attend, regardless of financial and social circumstances, knowing that these may have changed dramatically for some people over these past few months.

While the costs associated with arranging a virtual ASM in 2020 are considerably less than usual, they are not insignificant. Some costs for a physical ASM had already being accrued and not all were refundable. Some of our existing overheads remain - e.g. Hg3 continue to keep us, and you, organised! – they have been worth their weight in gold this year. We also have some new ones – including technical support for oral sessions and a platform for viewing posters. This is because we wanted to do our best to ensure a stimulating and smooth running conference, aware of the long hours we now spend online and the day-to-day challenges that brings, from internet connections to online meeting software, to online meeting fatigue.

Can you help? Some of us have travel and conference funds within grants that need to be spent this year (and in fact these may be harder to spend than usual as we are not going anywhere!). If you are in that situation, then we’d like to appeal to you to make an online payment through such institutional funds. Receipts for payments will refer to an “SSM ASM 2020 fee”, although please note that it is possible that some university expense policies may prevent reimbursement. For anyone who is in the position of not having such funding, but wishes to make a voluntary contribution, however small, we have suggested a lower level for such contributions. We pledge to re-invest all voluntary fees in 2021, in activities to support our community and to ensure that next year’s ASM can reach its full potential (whatever the circumstances are!).

Please click here make a voluntary ASM fee. Thanks for reading and we look forward to seeing you 9-11th September! Our treasurer, Anna Pearce, will be presenting a full financial report at our virtual SSM AGM so there will be opportunities for attendees to ask questions then.