APA Cancels Pacific Division Meeting

The Board of Officers of the American Philosophical Association (APA) have decided, in light of health concerns regarding the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), to cancel the association’s upcoming Pacific Division Meeting, scheduled to take place in San Francisco from April 8th through April 11th. 

There may, however, be some attempts postpone or otherwise salvage some of the meeting’s sessions, and the APA has created an online forum by which those who were to attend the meeting can discuss work that was to be presented. Registration fees will be (mostly) refunded.

In a statement released this afternoon, Amy Ferrer, Executive Director of the APA writes:

As indicated in a notice circulated on March 9, the APA leadership has been closely monitoring developments related to the global outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) and engaged in ongoing, detailed discussions with our conference venue, attorneys, and others about whether and how to move forward with the upcoming APA Pacific Division meeting, planned to take place April 8–11 at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco, CA.

Our participants’ health and safety are paramount, and directives from public health authorities in the City of San Francisco and State of California are increasingly recommending that, to curtail the spread of the virus, large public events be cancelled or postponed. We are heeding that advice. The 2020 APA Pacific Division meeting has been cancelled.

The cancelation of a meeting is a last resort. The APA deeply values the time and effort that the program committee and meeting participants put in to make the meetings professionally, intellectually, and socially stimulating, and it is a great loss to have to cancel a meeting that so many have worked so hard on. We are especially grateful to the members of the Pacific Division program committee and its chair, Elizabeth Brake, for their tireless work putting together a truly excellent and exciting program.

Though the meeting is cancelled, Ms. Ferrer said that the APA will be looking into possibly holding some of the sessions another time, and possibly via “other means,” (possibly online). Some group sessions may end up proceeding:

The APA leadership and staff will work over the coming days and weeks to determine to what extent sessions planned for the 2020 Pacific Division meeting can be postponed, rescheduled, or held via other means. The program chair, program committee, and executive committee of the Pacific Division will make every effort to create opportunities for participants in the 2020 divisional program to present at future APA meetings. There is a possibility of postponing the 2020 Pacific Division meeting to later this year, and the organizers of all three 2021 APA divisional meetings have indicated an openness to including some sessions planned for the 2020 Pacific Division meeting on their programs. We will provide more details when they are available.

We invite affiliated groups to work directly with their participants to consider whether their sessions should be postponed, cancelled, or converted to another medium. The Pacific Division will continue to provide affiliated groups with available meeting space but will not be able to provide more space than originally planned for the 2021 meeting.

The APA was not able to move the whole conference online, Ms. Ferrer said, but they have created an online forum for those who would have been attending to discuss their work:

The APA does not have the software or hardware infrastructure for virtual conference hosting nor, especially in the context of canceling a meeting, the ability to invest in virtual conference infrastructure. However, we encourage participants and affiliated groups to make use of their own online resources to engage with colleagues on the work and topics they planned to present at the 2020 Pacific Division meeting. To facilitate this, we have created a community on APA Connect, the APA’s online member community, where participants can share and discuss their papers and presentations that were to be presented in San Francisco.

Those who registered for the conference will be getting most of their money back, she says:

We will be offering meeting registration refunds, less a 15% processing fee. To request a registration refund, complete this form. Please be aware that each refund is processed individually by APA staff, who are also handling other issues related to the cancelation of the meeting, so it may take some time to receive your refund. We appreciate your patience. Sponsors and exhibitors will have a few options; APA staff will be in touch with further details.

The cancellation for the conference is costly to the APA, she notes:

The financial fallout from this meeting will be significant—in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for the APA itself, as well as losses to individual participants for non-refundable travel. The APA deeply regrets these financial impacts and encourages those who were planning to attend to reach out to their travel vendors about any policies or procedures they have put in place to assist those with reservations impacted by COVID-19. We also strongly recommend that colleges and universities reimburse non-refundable travel expenses their employees and students have incurred related to their planned attendance at the APA Pacific Division meeting.

To help offset the APA’s financial losses related to the meeting’s cancelation, we ask those who are in a position to do so to consider donating their prepaid registration fees to the APA. We are happy to provide a donation receipt for tax purposes to those who wish to do so. You may indicate that you wish to receive a donation receipt rather than a refund when completing this form.

Though the whole meeting is cancelled, Ms. Ferrer says that “all participants are responsible for canceling their own hotel reservations. Your reservation confirmation email contains information about how to cancel, and you can call the Westin St. Francis at (415) 397-7000 for assistance.”

You can read the whole statement here.

Prospective attendees had expressed concerns about the meeting and the uncertainty regarding whether it would be cancelled (see, for example, the comments on this post).

The next divisional meeting of the APA is the Eastern, scheduled to take place in New York City in January, 2021.

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