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ABCT Convention Update: Virtual Format
Dear ABCT members,
After a spirited discussion, the board has decided that the ABCT convention in November will be virtual. There will be no on-site activities in New Orleans.
I know many of you will be disappointed in this news; some might even be angry. I will share that this was a heartbreaker for me as well. For me, the ABCT convention has always been about much more than the excellent symposia, panel discussions, posters, and so on. I look forward to seeing old friends and colleagues each year, and I enjoy the opportunity to make new connections. I will miss those aspects of the convention terribly.
I am also disappointed that we will be unable to contribute to the New Orleans economy after Hurricane Ida. I would like to thank our local arrangements chair Amanda Raines for all of her hard work, and I regret that we’ll be unable to see the best that New Orleans has to offer.
In the end, the decision was made because the health and safety of our convention attendees was paramount. As a science-based organization, we simply could not ignore the data about the delta variant of COVID-19, nor could we predict, within a reasonable degree of certainty, what the situation will be in November.
Issues of equity also weighed heavily in our decision making. The board was mindful of the fact that many of our members are prohibited from traveling or cannot obtain funding for travel. If we were to have a hybrid model with some in-person activities, the virtual component would necessarily be limited to a smaller selection of presentations, compared to the in-person component. This, then, highlights issues of equity: some of our members, perhaps those with greater privilege or with better institutional support, would have greater access to content, and this struck us as inherently unfair.
Now, I want to speak briefly to what the shift to a virtual convention means for the organization. As you may recall, last year’s convention was also virtual, and went off very smoothly, thanks in large part to the efforts of our convention manager, Stephen Crane. But that virtual conference came at a significant cost. In addition to the direct costs of putting on a virtual conference (which is substantial), and the significant penalties we faced from the hotel for the cancellation, our virtual convention last year had markedly lower attendance (about 1,000 fewer attendees) than the usual in-person convention. Relatedly, ABCT membership usually follows convention attendance– people tend to renew their membership when they are attending the convention, and often don’t renew if they are not attending. So membership is significantly down from previous years. As a result, ABCT faced a significant financial hit last year. We had hoped that we could recover from that this year, but switching to a virtual convention in 2021 will again have significant financial repercussions. Taking into account all of the costs and expected decreased revenue for this year’s conference alone, we are currently looking at a deficit of close to $1 million.
This means that now, perhaps more than ever, ABCT needs you. Specifically, I am inviting you to:
Even though it will be virtual, the lineup of speakers is fantastic, thanks to the work of our program chair Greg Chasson and associate program chair Liz Katz.
Membership is the lifeblood of ABCT, and gives you access to all that ABCT has to offer including webinar discounts, our prestigious journals, and more.
There’s never been a more opportune time to grow our membership.
I look forward to seeing you virtually in November, and (fingers crossed) in person next year.
As always, I remain happy to receive your questions and comments.
David F. Tolin, Ph.D., ABPP
Director, Anxiety Disorders Center, The Institute of Living
Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine
President, Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies
Email: [email protected]