April Conference to Proceed with New Format
On March 11, the HSE Academic Council decided to give participants of the April International Academic Conference the opportunity to present their papers at distributed sessions or remotely. Lev Jacobson, Deputy Head of the Conference Programme Committee, explains why such a decision was made and what the new format implies.
Today, in the face of an unfavourable situation caused by the global spread of COVID-19, many conferences in Russia and around the world are either being cancelled or postponed. However, there is no guarantee that in a few months the situation will be more favourable. This concerns both the epidemiological situation itself and the plans of those participants who were planning to come in April. Plans for events such as the April Conference are drawn up well in advance, so rescheduling a large-scale event for the Fall is hardly realistic.
Naturally, HSE University also had to decide what to do with our traditional April Conference, which was to be held for the 21st time this year. The April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development has become the largest expert venue in Russia in the field of social and economic sciences and an event of global scope. Researchers from around the world regularly attend.
Following a proposal by the rector, the HSE Academic Council has decided not to cancel the conference. Cancellation would be unfair to the hundreds of talented researchers who have chosen this particular venue to present their latest research to colleagues. A rigorous and impartial selection process led to approximately 800 participants receiving invitations to join the conference programme. Each of them put a lot of work into their papers. And each of those papers deserves to be presented to the academic community.
However, it is now impossible to hold the conference in its traditional form. First, many international participants may not be able to attend, and they make up a significant part of the programme. The conference has long been popular among researchers from dozens of countries with strong research schools. Second, there is no certainty that participants from Russian regions will be able to arrive either. We do not want the conference to be a purely Moscow-centred event—we have even allocated funds to support the arrival of young researchers from the regions who are planning to present the most interesting papers.
Given the danger of hundreds of people gathering on the same site at the same time, we have decided that rather than cancelling the conference, we would hold it in a distributed format
What does this mean? Separate sections of the conference, as a rule, do not have a large number of participants. The problem arises when dozens of such meetings are held at the same time in adjacent rooms of the same building. If the sessions are distributed over time, the problem largely disappears. Therefore, the format we’ve chosen involves holding the conference over the course of two months, April and May, as opposed to one week in April.
But what about the participation of international researchers? Aswith previous April conferences, we have decided to make use of online communication tools. Some participants have presented previously at the conference while being located thousands of kilometres away from Moscow. This opportunity was made available only to the most prominent international scholars who, for various reasons, could not attend in person. Now this option will be available to all participants.
It seems that we have found the right answer to the challenge that organizers of major international conferences are facing this spring.
Why has HSE decided to take the lead in holding the conference in a new format? Because we are generally used to not giving up in the face of new challenges
And, of course, because HSE University has long used the full capabilities of modern information technology.
I believe that in some cases it will be possible to hold meetings remotely. A special option is provided for this, which is that the paper would be posted on the conference website and discussion would be conducted entirely remotely. It is important that in this case the paper is still presented to the audience of the April Conference and appreciated by it. We are considering other options, which will be offered to participants very soon.
A meeting of the Conference Programme Committee was held on March 12 where actions required to implement the Academic Council’s decision were discussed. The moderators of the conference sections will now work to develop approaches that meet the specific needs of each subject area and the particular composition of the participants. On March 16, we will meet to discuss the ideas. The Organizational and Programme Committees of the conference will put together the proposals and after an online discussion, an updated programme for the XXI April Conference will be made available by the end of next week.
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