The worldwide Covid-19 pandemic has not only changed our individual lives but also equally affected institutional life. With EuroSEAS Olomouc we were one of the first larger associations to stage a fully hybrid conference. It was a memorable and precious occasion but it has taught us important lessons as well. Being fully hybrid is like organizing two conferences in parallel, both in cost as well as in personnel needed. This double burden is not something our network can afford to carry if we want to stay financially healthy without significantly increasing conference and membership fees.
The board pondered this dilemma and decided to stay true to the origins and identity of our network: We are an association of scholars working on and with Southeast Asia based in Europe. We are a small group and at a physical conference of about 600 participants, a significant part of this network can meet in person for much more than attending a paper session here and there, but really catch up, interact, expand connections etc. Going fully hybrid or even fully online would fundamentally change this nature and character of EuroSEAS.
At its meeting in Olomouc, the board of EuroSEAS therefore decided that in principle, Paris 2022 would be an on-site conference. Early bird and low-income fees ensure that costs are not prohibitive. From the release of the Call for Panels the board, the Secretariat and the Paris organizing committee have communicated this decision. Only in well-argued circumstances could panel conveners request for part of their panel presenters to attend online. Think here of travel, Covid or visa restrictions preventing an onsite presence. Some panel proposals indicated their wishes and arguments early on and could be accommodated.
Based on pre-registration numbers, the local organizing committee drew up a budget, organized a local support crew and entered into agreements and contracts for technical equipment, catering and side events. Recently, just before, and even after the registration and payment deadline, we received a significant number of requests for hybrid or fully online sessions. It is simply too late to accommodate these requests. Allowing this many people to attend online and pay the reduced online fee would put the association deep into financial trouble. Even if we had all of them pay the full fee, technical and logistical support would be almost impossible to provide at short notice – although the local organizing team is doing its best to accommodate a solid infrastructure for panels that faced exceptional difficulties. Please do realize as well that the very modest online fee granted to those with well-argued reasons of not being able to attend in person, only allows them to participate in their own session and perhaps in a very small number of random other sessions with similarly exceptional circumstances. Fully onsite sessions will not be livestreamed!
The board fully realizes that circumstances and expectations have changed over the past few years. However, to remain a strong and financially viable network, we need to be prudent. We hope that many will gather at the Campus Condorcet and we are sure it will be a meaningful, enjoyable and productive conference.
On behalf of the EuroSEAS Board
Silvia Vignato, President
Sikko Visscher, Treasurer and Secretary