We are not asking participants to change the format of their sessions. However, we are requesting that you shorten your presentation slightly to minimize Zoom fatigue and allow for a robust session with time for Q&A. Panel presenters should expect to limit their presentations to 12–14 minutes, or 10–12 minutes if your session has a respondent. Roundtable, seminar, and lightning session participants also will need to adjust the length of their contributions to better fit the one-hour time frame.
Yes, we recommend that session organizers and participants discuss ways that their presentations can be as effective and engaging as possible in this online medium. Following papers that are read aloud is especially challenging for audience members in an online environment. Presenters will have the opportunity to share screens and to interact with audience members. In a few weeks, we will send you materials concerning best practices for online conference presentations. But we encourage you and your co-panelists to start thinking now about any adjustments you might want to make to your individual presentations.
A computer, tablet, or smartphone that has a camera, microphone, and internet access (preferably high speed). For those presenting a paper, we will send along some recommendations for improving the quality of video and audio during your presentation. If your presentation requires music, video, or other projection, you will also need to have a way to access that material via your computer to share with the audience.
In order to emulate the dynamic participation and engagement opportunities of our in-person meetings, the conference will operate as a live gathering with sessions, panels, and meetings happening in real time. We do recognize, however, that participants will be connecting from across the globe and will have access to different technologies/bandwidths. With this in mind, we will make recordings of the sessions available to conference participants until January 3, 2021.
This is going to be a new experience for all of us. We will hold pre-conference webinars to walk through the technology of participation for both audience members and presenters. We also will hold special workshops for chairs.
The AJS will record all conference panels and Q&A. “Schmooze” periods and any breakout room conversations will not be recorded. We are recording the proceedings in line with the AJS’s dedication to equity. It might be particularly difficult this year for participants to attend all proceedings due to time zone and dependent care challenges, among other commitments. Therefore, our policy ensures registered participants full access to all session recordings from the time of the proceedings through January 3rd, 2021. We recognize that some members may be concerned about privacy issues, which is why we are requiring login access and prohibiting individual downloads and screen-captures.
The conference will include ‘traditional’ programming such as the plenary, “AJS Honors its Authors,” and the Jordan Schnitzer Book Awards. It will offer opportunities for networking and mentoring, and it will showcase additional programming such as a second plenary, online coffee breaks, and an online book exhibit. The conference will be spread over five days, and we will limit most of our sessions to 11:00 am–5:00 pm EST. Each session will consist of one-hour blocks followed by 15 minutes of informal networking time and then 15-minute breaks.
Every year, the AJS supports its members with childcare subsidies related to the annual conference. This year is no different. We are able to provide grants to defray childcare costs on a first-come first-served basis with a preferred deadline August 31.
Please click here to learn more and request a childcare grant.
Several years ago, the AJS instituted a sliding scale policy based on yearly income for conference registration. We will continue to use this policy this year. All cancellations will be accepted and refunded in full until August 31.
Thanks to generous donations from AJS members and several foundations, we will be able to offer subvention grants to defray conference registration costs this year on a first-come first-served basis to those who apply by August 14 with priority given to contingent faculty, grad students, and scholars who have lost income due to the Covid-19 pandemic. If you wish to apply, please click here for more information. If you are planning to submit a subvention application, do not register for the conference until you complete your application and hear back from the AJS office.
Webinar and video-conferencing like Zoom are not free—especially when used at the scale of a 1000+ person conference. Not only is there a cost for the web technology, but managing a conference of this size requires us to hire an experienced technology company. We have engaged OpenWater to provide the platform and offer technological support. a professional company to make sure that everything runs smoothly. But, even more importantly, the most substantial expense of hosting the conference each year is the year-round staff time required to run the conference. The AJS has several full- and part-time staff who spend the majority of their time preparing for the conference throughout the year. Conference fees help the AJS cover these costs, which remain the same this year. Members will not have the cost of travel and hotel this year, so hopefully, overall, the total cost for conference participation will be much lower this year for everyone.
Please be flexible and patient with us over the next few weeks. Everyone is working very hard in good faith to make the best of a new situation. The success of this conference will rest largely with our members’ willingness to experiment and innovate. Finally, for those who are fortunate to be in a secure financial position, please consider donating to support our funds which will defray the conference registration fees for our most economically vulnerable members.
Panelists are presenting works-in-progress, and they may be uncomfortable with their materials being available indefinitely and to an unknown number of viewers. Therefore, the AJS has determined that materials will only be available through our conference’s site to registered participants for a limited amount of time. By participating in the AJS proceedings, you agree to not individually record or screen-capture any of the proceedings. If you want to review a particular session after it has concluded, you may do so in our “Recording Bank” of sessions that will be available until January 3, 2021.
The most important consideration for evaluating whether or not we could hold an in-person conference has been the health and safety of our membership. Even while parts of the world have begun to “open up,” social distancing and restrictions in large gatherings remain part of the public health guidelines for the foreseeable future. With no vaccine likely until 2021, we feel it would be impossible to gather hundreds of people together in hotel conference rooms for a number of days without risking the health and safety of our members and the communities around us. In addition to health concerns, we also recognize that there is an important equity issue at stake in this decision. As many departments/programs have made cuts to travel budgets due to the current situation and international travel restrictions have been put in place, we anticipate that many members would not be able to participate in an in-person conference.
On May 21, Washington DC Mayor Bowser published guidelines for the steps her city would take toward reopening. These guidelines, called “ReOpen DC” make it clear that the mayor plans to recommend gathering of groups larger than 250 in the fourth stage of the reopening plan. This stage will only take effect once there is an “effective vaccine or cure.” Even the most optimistic public health officials do not predict the availability of a vaccine before 2021. It is thus extremely unlikely that there will be any significant changes in the COVID guidelines that would impact this decision. Moreover, we felt that a clear decision sooner would provide additional time for staff to plan for the new format and enable members to finalize their participation plans.
We are building the online conference on the same basic foundation as the in-person conference. We will have several programming blocks during the day, a plenary session, receptions, mentorship opportunities, an exhibit hall with coffee breaks, and other informal networking opportunities! We will also utilize the online space to do new things that are specific to this medium. Stay tuned for more details in the next few weeks.
A computer, tablet, or smartphone that has a camera, microphone, and internet access (preferably high speed). For those presenting a paper, we will send along some recommendations for improving the quality of video and audio during your presentation.
As you can imagine, the shift to an online conference requires the organization to pivot quickly to ensure that we have the technical, logistical, and staffing resources to host an online conference with over 1,000 participants. In order to coordinate our efforts, we have created a task force to address the many questions and opportunities that we need to address quickly and thoughtfully. Two board members, Shira Kohn and Sarah Bunin Benor, have agreed to co-chair this task force, which also includes members of the staff and the AJS Program committee. Our planning will be guided by our values and strategic goals, especially our goal of “cultivating informed, active, and diversified membership.”
We have set up a fundraising campaign to help defray the cost of conference participation for graduate students, contingent faculty, and other members. We will use these funds to subsidize registration for those members hit especially hard by the COVID economic situation. We are cautiously optimistic that our fundraising efforts will enable us to provide significant subsidies to those with need, especially unemployed members, graduate students, and contingent faculty. For those of you able to donate to support conference registration fees for members in need, please donate here.
Staff, member volunteers, and board leadership are all working especially hard to transition quickly to a completely new format. While we don’t have enough information to know the exact details, the board has approved a potential deficit of over $100,000 in order to cover possible additional costs associated with cancelling the in-person conference, possible cost of lost advertising/sponsor revenue, and new technology/IT support. Our organization has a healthy reserve that can bridge the significant increase in our budget for this year. This will reduce our reserves, however, and perhaps make it more difficult to pursue new projects/initiatives in the near term.
Thank you for asking. I would ask for everyone to be flexible and patient with us over the next few weeks. Everyone is working very hard in good faith to make the best of a tough situation. Please plan to participate enthusiastically in the new format. At the end of the day, the success of this conference will rest largely with our members’ willingness to experiment and innovate. Finally, for those who are fortunate to be in a secure financial position, please consider donating to support our funds which will defray the conference registration fees for our most economically vulnerable members.