On the eve of one of the biggest academic conferences of the year – the American Physical Society’s March meeting — the attendees received an urgent cancellation.
Conferences like this one are an opportunity for scientists from a wide range of disciplines and geographies to share their advances, network, and even find jobs. In fact, I was scheduled to drive down from Boulder on Wednesday to present my recent work with nanoparticle antibiotics.
APS appears to have been in constant contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Just five days before cancelling, APS issued a statement that the meeting would proceed, citing that “the CDC indicates that the immediate health risk to meeting attendees is low.”
But the threat to public health is very real. According to APS, the decision was based on growing numbers of infections, and “the fact that a large number of attendees at this meeting are coming from outside the US, including countries where the CDC upgraded its warning to level 3.” APS plans to reimburse registration fees, but airlines and hotels refunds may require some more work.
This isn’t the only conference to change plans in response to the novel COVID-19. The CERAWeek energy conference in Houston cancelled and Game Developers Conference postponed its San Francisco meeting.
Some disappointed attendees are using the opportunity to make lemonade — encouraging scientists to share their work online for a “virtual meeting.” (Not the worst idea, considering the climate crisis). APS has since endorsed the idea and plans to compile the presentations.