It goes without saying that the last 12 months have been difficult across the globe. Whilst many of us are desperate to get back to ‘normal’ and to socialise with friends and family, others are still anxious about what is going on, and shielding those who remain at risk. With growing uncertainty about future restrictions and new covid variants, the BSA has decided to continue with a virtual conference in 2022.
We understand many of our members will be desperate to get back to the face-to-face conference experience. We share your desires and frustrations. In light of the changing economic climate post-Covid-19 for members, and the continued financial constraints upon the BSA, it was felt that providing clarity for members was essential. Below are some FAQs that may address specific questions.
We will do all we can to ensure 2023 is face-to-face and hope to see you in person in Manchester then.
Why is the conference online again?
The main reasons for this decision: clarity and safety for potential delegates, finances, and planning. We would have preferred to return to face-to-face conferences after two years away, and had identified a preferred conference venue. However due to the uncertainty because of new Covid variants it was agreed that to start organising a face-to-face conference and then possibly having to change to virtual at a later date, would require additional resources (staff and trustee time), as well as paying a sizable (non-refundable) deposit to the venue. By planning to go virtual from the outset presenters have time to prepare their work and arrangements around travel and its uncertainties are removed.
Many members provided constructive feedback on the virtual conference, and we will take that feedback on board to improve the experiences of delegates in 2022.
Why have the rates increased?
2021 was a year of unknowns and firsts for many reasons across our lives. We were keen to make the conference feel as close to a face-to-face conference and this required specialist software company support to provide a suitable platform, which incurs a cost. This is in addition to the staff costs required annually to organise an international conference for over 700 people over three days with numerous parallel streams. The 2021 Annual Conference operated at a loss, and we need the annual conference to at least break even in 2022 as the BSA is facing a significant loss of income due to the impact of open access publishing. Hence increases of between £6 and £40 have unfortunately had to be introduced. We hope that if you did attend the conference you will have had more than ‘just a Zoom’ experience, and feel that this justifies the cost.
Why do presenters have to pre-record presentations?
Following advice from the virtual platform provider that pre-recorded presentations for an event of this size were recommended, the BSA chose for 2021 for presentations to be pre-recorded and screened at the times agreed with the speakers. This was then accompanied by live online discussions after each session through either chat or people asking questions with cameras on or off. This will be continued in 2022 and it is hoped that all presenters will then engage live with other delegates using the platform video/audio technology. The pros of pre-recording presentations are
- The risk of technological failure for presenters on the day is lower; we’ve all been on online events where the presenter’s share screen doesn’t work, or their WIFI cuts out. Pre-recording minimises this risk.
- Presentations will not overrun / eat into the time of following presenters (overrunning or having to cut short what you want to say as a presenter is a not a good experience all round)
- Presenters can record and re-record to perfect their presentation (which can make for a better experience for the presenter and the audience and provide the presenter with a ready-made showreel of their research for later use)
- There is no delay is making the presentations live after the event e.g. waiting for presenter permissions, video editing (a benefit of going online is that the presentations are available for 30 days – this would not be immediately possible with live presentations as we would need to obtain presenter permission after they had presented which could take some time given that there will be over 600 presenters)
- The stress of presenting live is removed (allowing presenters to focus on the discussion section of the presentation slot and be more relaxed listening to other presentations before their own).
- The stress is lower for sessions chairs (allowing them to focus on the technical aspects of switching between presentations and the discussion sections rather than worrying about whether and how they will keep everyone to time)
- Pre-recording can be more inclusive for presenters (e.g. for a presenter with a disability who has difficulty speaking or a presenter attending from another time zone which means they would be presenting in the middle of the night where they are). Pre-recorded presentations can also facilitate the use of close captions that are edited, which supports a range of participants.
Will there be funded places?
We recognise the difficult financial environment that our members are facing, and the uncertainty of our jobs and career opportunities. These difficulties affect our postgraduate, early career and non-academic members harder. The BSA is committed to building a new generation of sociologists and this means keeping the conference accessible for those without the economic or institutional resources to attend. Trustees agreed to maintain the 70 free places as were introduced this year so there will be 20 places for PG students, 20 places for ECRs and 30 places for those facing hardship. We have also limited as much as possible the increase in fees for concessionary members.
Will there be opportunities for networking?
We are working with the platform provider to be able to offer more space for networking opportunities.
Will the BSA Annual Conference be face-to-face in 2023?
Our intention is to return to face-to-face conferences in 2023. As sociologists we know how important it is to congregate (ask Emile Durkheim!). We know that much of the value of the conference is to socialise after papers, over lunch or in the evening, and this isn’t possible online in the same way. Covid-19 willing we will be face-to-face in 2023.