22 December 2021

AAS 239 In-Person Meeting Canceled

Kevin Marvel

Kevin Marvel American Astronomical Society (AAS)

AAS 239 In-Person Meeting Canceled

The AAS Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to cancel the in-person component of the 239th AAS meeting. The rapid rise of the COVID-19 Omicron variant and the health risks it poses to our staff, attendees, exhibitors, and support contractors coupled with the likely spread of the virus by attendees to others after the conference was deemed to be too significant a risk to hold the meeting. In addition, international and institutional travel restrictions have already impacted some of our speakers and attendees, limiting their ability to travel to Salt Lake City at all. We have also received and weighed community feedback regarding canceling the in-person meeting, with the majority favoring a cancellation. Most people who submitted feedback also thanked the Board for listening and many recognized the challenging decision they have to make and expressed their support for the Board of Trustees.

The AAS staff and Vice Presidents (VPs) have been working extremely hard over the past few weeks to finalize the first in-person meeting since January 2020 and are extremely disappointed to have to cancel. Although we successfully managed to pivot to a virtual conference in June 2020, it took three full months and the help of many contractors to successfully support the full virtual meeting. It is not possible at this moment to convert to a fully virtual conference.

The cancellation of the meeting will carry additional costs, but we believe we can mitigate much of them and the cancellation will not seriously impact the financial health of the Society.

We will be issuing full refunds to all in-person registrants and exhibitors. This process will take some time as we do not retain credit card information on file for security reasons. If the virtual meeting does not take place, we will also refund all virtual meeting registrants.

The Board recognizes how much our community was looking forward to meeting in person and we have heard from numerous early-career members who acutely feel the impact of an in-person meeting cancellation. The Board is eager to help find novel ways for our community members to have meaningful interactions and we value your input on ways we can meet that goal outside of an in-person or virtual meeting. You may email the Board at AAS239feedback@aas.org with your suggestions. 

The Board will work with the meetings team and the VPs to discuss whether and how to move forward with a virtual meeting of some form in the coming days. We will inform the community of their decisions as soon as possible, via the AAS website and emails.