18 May 2016

Planning for Grapevine AAS 229 in Response to Kissimmee AAS 227 Attendee Survey

Joel Parriott American Astronomical Society (AAS)

Because we highly value your input and are constantly striving to organize the most scientifically and professionally beneficial conferences in the world, we asked attendees at the 2016 AAS winter meeting in Kissimmee, Florida, to complete a post-meeting satisfaction survey. Over 800 people, roughly one-third of the attendees, completed the survey! (And we provided Starbucks gift cards to five participants, selected at random.)

We heard you loud and clear about several aspects of the Gaylord Palms as a venue, in particular the isolated location and the limited options for meals at or near the federal per diem level. We are keenly aware of the cost constraints faced by our meeting attendees and we work hard to organize meetings at times and locations that minimize the total cost of attendance for the average AAS member, without losing the money that the Council expects us to generate to support other Society activities such as advocacy and education. The necessity to generate modest revenue from our meetings is driven by the Council’s long-standing policy that proceeds from our journals not be used to directly support meetings or other Society activities. Minimizing attendee costs without losing money is no easy task when faced with a for-profit hospitality industry increasingly driven by revenue managers and disconnected ownership groups.

Sometimes we miss the mark despite our best efforts. We clearly missed the mark on affordable on-site food options in Kissimmee, and we apologize. Affordability is a key accessibility issue for many members of our community, especially for the students that we believe can benefit so much from attending AAS conferences. The relative isolation of the Gaylord Palms clearly exacerbated the issue.

As you may be aware, the AAS Council created a Meetings Task Force, chaired by Stephen Unwin (JPL), to review every aspect of our conferences and to recommend changes to make them even better. (See this post from AAS Executive Officer Kevin Marvel for more on the task force.) The task force spent a great deal of time looking at the total cost of attendance at our meetings. The work of the task force recently concluded and the Council will consider the task force report at Council meeting immediately preceding the AAS summer meeting in San Diego. Please be on the lookout for a final Council-approved report following the summer meeting. If you are attending the AAS summer meeting in San Diego, please also be on the lookout for another post-meeting satisfaction survey.

The next winter meeting, the 229th meeting of the Society, will be located at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas. Since we are contractually bound to this venue, we have started working with them on a number of fronts to address the isolation and affordable food option concerns that were expressed in the Kissimmee survey. There are still a number of details to work out and more information will be forthcoming, but here are some highlights:

Gaylord Texan

  • Lower price point "grab & go" stations at lunchtime
  • Discounted pricing on special lunch buffets at several dine-in restaurants
  • Refrigerators in every guestroom


  • Grapevine Visitors Shuttle – $5 day pass for a shuttle that serves Grapevine Mills, Historic Downtown Grapevine (including a farmers market), and Target/Grapevine Towne Center and restaurants along State Highway 114. See more at www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com/shuttle.
  • AAS will also provide attendees with complimentary shuttle service to downtown Grapevine on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings.
  • A "Show Your Badge" program will provide AAS attendees with promotional offers from Grapevine merchants, restaurants, and attractions. See more at www.grapevinetexasusa.com/aas2017.

Special session and town hall proposals for #AAS229 in Grapevine are due next Wednesday, 25 May (see this post for more information). We expect another exciting program full of compelling science, education, and professional development sessions, so please get your proposals in on time since space is limited. We will do our best to make it a less isolated and more financially accessible meeting as well.

A. Renée Battle, AAS Director of Meeting Services
Joel Parriott, AAS Deputy Executive Officer & Director of Public Policy