Dear IRSPM members and friends,
I’m Jenny Lewis, the current President of IRSPM, and I am here to give you an update on the board meetings which were held on 21 and 22 April 2020, and to communicate a number of decisions that the board has made about our future.
First, I hope that this message finds you all safe and well and recovering from the disappointment of not being able to meet with your colleagues from around the world in Tampere in April 2020. We all share that disappointment, perhaps most of all our hosts who worked so hard to ensure that the conference was successful, but had to make the heart-breaking decision to cancel because of the pandemic we are all facing.
I want to assure you that, despite having to cancel our conference this year, IRSPM is in a sound financial position. But current circumstances have highlighted some real challenges facing IRSPM and added urgency to thinking about our future. Rather than waste a good crisis, we are now thinking carefully about what purpose IRSPM serves, what membership model is suitable for the society, and how we might reimagine our future conferences.
So here is some important news.
In 2021 the IRSPM conference will be online – so save the dates of 21-23 April 2021.
We know that meeting in person is engaging, enriching and creates synergies that are hard to fully replicate digitally. As such, IRSPM remains committed to in-person meetings where possible. But, after careful thought we have concluded that 2021 is unlikely to be viable as an in-person meeting.
We had been negotiating with FGV/EBAPE in Rio, Brazil, to host the conference in 2021. But given the situation with covid-19; the impacts on travel for an uncertain period of time and on university resources for conferences for the foreseeable future, and the safety of our members, we have decided to adopt a digital format for 2021, returning to a physical conference in 2022.
We are excited about the possibilities that digital conference platforms afford us as a complement to our physical conferences. While not perfect, we think their capacity to connect us around the world, opens up huge possibilities for new and interesting formats, and helps in making us more environmentally sustainable.
The format for our digital conference in 2021 will be explored by one of the 3 board working groups we are establishing now. We plan to try new and different formats and will collaborate with the Rio team to ensure there is strong Latin-American input and flavour.
More on this will be communicated as we progress – so for now just save the dates of 21-23 April for the IRSPM 2021 conference.
Regarding the future of IRSPM, the board has agreed that there is an opportunity to make this a genuine turning point for IRSPM by taking time to consider our membership model, our conferences, and the future of our Society.
More information will be posted as we start working on these issues. Meanwhile, stay safe and I look forward to seeing you online soon, and in person in the not too distant future.
Jenny M Lewis
Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Policy Lab
University of Melbourne, Australia