To the GROUP Community:
Summary: Due to the realities of the ongoing pandemic, we are planning to postpone the main in-person conference planned for January 2022 to January 2023. Details are being finalized, and the organizers appreciate your support. Please contact the general chairs with any questions.
As your General Chairs for GROUP 2022, we found ourselves relieved at the start of the pandemic that the conference was nearly a full two years away, and therefore we would not be in the position of many conferences in 2020 and 2021 that had to move to a virtual format. We felt this particularly strongly because part of what is so special about GROUP is the intimate feel of the small community that has become so special to us, a characteristic enabled by in-person interactions at a single-track conference. And even this spring, when we made decisions about conference registration requirements, we were confident that the promising vaccine roll-outs would mean that, although some community members might still not be able to join us, there would not be significant barriers for most.
Unfortunately, the state of the pandemic looks quite different now than it did in May. Realities of the Delta variant, breakthrough cases, and borders closing once again as a result mean that many members of our community would have no way of attending an in-person GROUP unless things significantly improve by January, which seems unlikely. Additionally, our conference happens to be in Florida, where there are also regulations that prohibit even individual organizations from mandating vaccinations at events like ours.
Though we know that some of you may still be hoping and planning to travel to Sanibel Island in January, a large contingent of our community will almost certainly be unable to. This poses a significant risk to GROUP, both financially (because our contract requires us to fill a certain number of hotel rooms) and with respect to our global community for which we greatly value inclusivity.
With feedback from the Organizing Committee and in consultation with the Steering Committee, and taking into account contractual obligations and options for us provided by the venue, we weighed a number of different options, including going fully virtual or attempting a hybrid in-person/virtual conference for 2022. We were concerned about these options both for the logistics of successfully planning for a different modality with such little time left before the conference, the difficulty of translating the special experience of GROUP to a virtual environment, and the number of people who have expressed to us their preference for GROUP to be in person.
There are a number of more specific decisions that need to be made, including around some events that may happen virtually in advance of 2023.
We welcome feedback from the community as we make these decisions – as well as volunteers who might be willing to assist with new types of planning and organization over the coming year. We also very much appreciate your understanding and patience as we all deal with the current unfortunate realities that are keeping us apart.
Please, feel free to contact us at [email protected] to share your thoughts and suggestions on how we could stay in touch and keep fostering our community while we wait for the next GROUP conference.
Meanwhile, stay safe and well!
Casey and Fabiano
Your GROUP 2022 General Chairs