ADVOCACY UPDATE | Pacifichem virtual delegate fees
Written by Associate Professor Michael Mucalo President NZIC, Professor Steven Bottle President RACI, and Professor Pall Thordarson President-Elect RACI.
Published 12 August 2021
It came to our attention that our RACI members felt strongly that the virtual delegate fees of Pacifichem was unfair and was making it unaccessible for most members. Please see below our Statement of Concern sent to Pacifichem.
27 July 2021
Joint statement of concern from the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) and the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry (NZIC) regarding Pacifichem and the planned format and registration fees for the virtual component of Pacifichem in December 2021.
The Australian and New Zealand chemistry societies are in a unique and unfortunate situation regarding international conference participation. In Australia, specific permission must be given by the federal government for private individuals to travel overseas. In New Zealand, while the government does not ban travel, employers such as universities have placed significant restrictions on employees. Returning travellers are required to undertake (and pay for) expensive quarantine periods in specialist facilities. Limited quarantine places and flight availability makes the prospect of travel unrealistic. Chemists in Australia and New Zealand have no choice but to participate in conferences through virtual attendance.
The Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) and the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry (NZIC), are concerned that the Pacifichem organising corporation (Pacifichem Inc) has failed to sufficiently recognise these issues in deciding how the virtual component of Pacifichem would be organised and how much the conference intends to charge virtual attendees.
Pacifichem has a long standing and excellent reputation and is arguably closest to being the Olympics of the chemistry world. Every five years seven main chemistry societies of the Pacific rim allow the opportunity for chemistry researchers from around the world to meet and share their latest research. The COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020 led to the postponement of Pacifichem 2020. While COVID-19 is still a large threat and a huge challenge for most countries, and especially those in the Pacific rim, the introduction of mass vaccination has alleviated some of the burden. Consequently, the NZIC and the RACI supported the decision for the organisers to run the delayed meeting in a hybrid mode so that those that can travel can participate as usual while delegates from countries such as New Zealand and Australia, where international travel is still heavily restricted, can attend the conference virtually.
We are however very concerned and disappointed in how the virtual component of Pacifichem has been structured.
Specifically, the NZIC and the RACI are concerned that:
- The in-person part of the conference will not be live-streamed. This fails to meet many of our members’ expectations. Experience formed over the last 18 months with many other hybrid conferences shows us that this is the most valuable form of on-line conference experience. The virtual attendees of Pacifichem however will have no real or meaningful opportunities to listen to, or engage in, discussions at the in-person meeting. Recordings undoubtedly have less impact. As it is optional for in-person attendees to upload their talks, this will deliver a restricted program. Recorded versions may not have the same content as the in-person delivered versions. In effect, the virtual attendees will be at a “different” conference and only have access to a selected number of pre-recorded videos from those in-person attendees that choose to include these versions.
- The registration fees for virtual attendees are high (~ $US500 for NZIC and RACI members). This is ~2/3 of the in-person fee and is well in excess of the more typical 30-50% mark that is more common for hybrid conferences that include live-streaming. These high registration fees are unjustified and are unfair to NZIC and RACI members especially considering our members have no choice but to attend virtually. There is an opportunity presented by the pandemic to offer an authentic blended conference experience which is inclusive of those unable to be physically present. The opportunity lends itself to something futuristic which could provide participation opportunities to chemists across the world who may not have had a realistic chance of participating in the conference even without a pandemic in place. This opportunity will be lost with this unfavourable pricing structure.
- Pacifichem has a successful history built from a broad and inclusively representative nature. The meeting is successful as it covers all areas of chemistry and draws attendance from almost all nations. Running a separate virtual programme would be at odds with this philosophy. It is of concern to the NZIC and the RACI that this core feature of Pacifichem was not sufficiently considered when the decision to have two separate programs was made and runs against the spirit of the seven society agreement.
We ask Pacifichem Inc. undertake measures to address our concerns and reconsider how it will run the virtual component of the conference. Many of our members have undertaken considerable efforts in co-organising symposia, preparing talks and reviewing abstracts for this meeting, but now many of them have become disheartened by the virtual attendance pricing structure and the limited opportunities for engagement. A significant withdrawal of NZIC and RACI abstracts is likely to be a reality which will in turn have a significant negative impact on many of the symposia within the conference. We urge Pacifichem Inc to make Pacifichem a more inclusive meeting for those that cannot attend due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.
Associate Professor Michael Mucalo President NZIC
Professor Steven Bottle President RACI
Professor Pall Thordarson President-Elect RACI
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