During the last year, the COVID pandemic has severely affected the way our conferences are being run. Video conferencing has replaced interactive talks, online meeting rooms have replaced coffee breaks and message-based chatting has replaced physical communication. While we are all trying to cope with the situation, and make our conferences as streamlined as possible for the participants, anecdotal evidence suggest that the conference experience is not what it used to be. Most importantly, the serendipity, directness and spontaneousness of physical contact are gone.
Back in November, we announced that we will try our best to have a physical ESEC/FSE 2021. We also set a deadline for deciding the final conference format for mid-March. The time has come to reassess the situation.
Here is where we currently stand:
- The COVID vaccination program is progressing at a good pace in many parts of the world
- The EU and several countries are contemplating to permit international travel for travellers with a vaccination certificate
- The tourism industry in Greece is planned to reopen for the summer, albeit not at full capacity
The above mean that we are currently not in the position to guarantee a physical conference for every potential participant, but we can (probably) have a reduced-size event for people who are able, willing (and, given the extended lockouts, probably also keen) to travel.
Therefore, we decided to make ESEC/FSE on-line first: this means that the full conference will run in online mode, with video presentations, online question/answering etc with timezone mirroring. A few events (e.g., the keynotes) will be live, in a time band that is convenient for many remote attendees to watch. We are working with our online chairs to finalise the conference format.
In addition, we are aspiring to host a physical event for people who will be able to travel to Athens in the late summer. The physical event will be opt-in (i.e., not mandatory) and will run in parallel with the online program. We do not know whether this will be possible yet (even though the bets are on our side). We will reassess the situation in early May in order to come up with a final recommendation.
Diomidis Spinellis and Georgios Gousios
ESEC/FSE 2021 General Chairs