With deep regret we have decided to cancel the annual IRSPM conference to be held at Tampere University 22-24 April 2020. The situation around the world with COVID-19 has now been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Many people are facing travel restrictions and uncertainty about the likelihood of new outbreaks and quarantine periods being imposed in many nations. We have taken this and the health of the IRSPM community and the global community into account as we approached the conference and have now decided it is too risky to proceed.
This is incredibly disappointing for everyone who looks forward to attending the IRSPM conference to meet colleagues and friends from all over the world each year. The wonderful work that Päivikki Kuoppakangas and Jari Stenvall and the team at Tampere have been doing over many months looked certain to ensure that this conference in Finland would have been a great one. It is devastating to make this decision but one that we really must make now to avoid uncertainty and more costly changes for our conference participants, conference hosts and the IRSPM.
Over the last 2 weeks we have investigated the possibility of running a virtual conference. Tampere University is well equipped for people to be able to attend conferences digitally. But moving from this potential to having a platform that is capable of running an entire conference with multiple sessions on many time zones is not something that can be created in a short time frame. Our examination of what some other very large conferences have done to move to this mode indicates that the financial resources required for such a 'digital build' are far beyond IRSPM's capacity as a small non-profit organization and Tampere's as a public university.
Logistically, the potential for delaying the conference to later in the year is difficult because of existing commitments and the uncertainty around when the virus might be controlled, and when international travel might again be possible. We will instead be focusing our energy on returning funds to participants and then looking towards meeting in 2021 at our next conference (details of which will be forthcoming in the next few months).
All enquiries about refunds should be directed to the Tampere University Congress Office team on: https://www.lyyti.in/irspm2020cancellation
We thank you for your understanding in the wake of this difficult decision.
Päivikki Kuoppakangas and Jari Stenvall (on behalf of the Tampere University team), and
Jenny M Lewis (IRSPM President, on behalf of the IRSPM board)