Neuroscience 2020 Cancelled
The Society for Neuroscience is announcing the cancellation of Neuroscience 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in the Mayor of the District imposing continuing restrictions on large in-person events in the District of Columbia. The SfN annual meeting, scheduled for October 24-28, 2020 in Washington, D.C. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, was slated to attract 30,000 attendees, considerably more than permitted by the Mayor’s restrictions. After extensive analysis of the feasibility of holding the annual meeting and also prioritizing the health and safety of SfN members and their families and associates, the SfN Council determined there is no possibility of moving forward with the meeting.
In March, when the D.C. Mayor shut down all but essential businesses in the city, including the Convention Center, which was turned into an overflow hospital, the SfN Council delayed deadlines for abstract submissions due to the uncertainty associated with the pandemic and the availability of the Convention Center. SfN continued to evaluate information from District of Columbia health authorities and D.C. Mayor’s office, along with related restrictions to in-person events. Since then, D.C. has been reopening in stages in accordance with the Mayor’s adoption of a set of recommendations by ReOpen D.C., a committee of business and civic leaders that considers information from medical experts and other sources, including recommendations concerning large gatherings of people.
Currently, while the city is in phase (or stage) 2 of the Mayor’s plan, in-person gatherings of over 50 people are not allowed, and the city remains under a public health emergency until at least October. Until the city moves to phase 4, the Mayor’s guidelines will not allow for larger in-person gatherings such as Neuroscience 2020, and phase 4 will only occur if a vaccine or effective treatment for the virus has been developed. Moreover, travel to D.C. remains difficult or impossible, as the Mayor’s office recently imposed a quarantine for anyone traveling to D.C. from 27 high-risk U.S. states, and numerous other travel restrictions have been put in place by universities, government agencies, employers, and the U.S. and other countries. Based on information from the Mayor’s office and other sources, as well as from the Convention Center, it is highly unlikely that the city will move into phase 4 before the meeting in October, thus making it impossible to hold the annual meeting. The Convention Center therefore informed SfN that it would be appropriate for SfN to cancel the event.
It is with great disappointment that we announce this cancellation, as planning was well underway with a robust program of speakers and presenters already committed. It is our plan to carry forward the planned programming as much as possible and to safely celebrate SfN’s 50th annual meeting at Neuroscience 2021, scheduled for November 13-17, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois.
In order to ensure continuity of leadership and program planning and to maintain the scientific integrity of the Neuroscience 2021 program, and to guide SfN through this period of enormous financial uncertainty created by the pandemic and the cancellation of Neuroscience 2020, the SfN Council voted to extend the terms of SfN Councilors and officers, along with the Program Committee and the Program Committee chairs until the next annual meeting. This leadership will work closely with the recently elected new officers and Councilors, who will be invited to begin participating this summer. This collaboration will ensure an influx of new ideas and problem-solving. The normal rotation schedule and end of terms for members of Council and the Program Committee will resume at Neuroscience 2021.
We also recognize that during this time when many members are working remotely and it is more difficult to communicate with peers, SfN should serve as the venue and the catalyst that connects the membership. To this end, we are committed to providing opportunities for members to participate in scientific exchange and networking with online content. We also are planning virtual opportunities in 2021, with a focus on a virtual experience in early winter 2021. More details will be made available as soon as possible. Additionally, current on-demand SfN member virtual programming can be accessed via Neuronline.
We recognize that 2020 has been an extraordinarily difficult time, and we hope that SfN members and their families, volunteers, exhibitors, and all others stay as safe and healthy as possible. With many labs still closed or operating at reduced capacity, the loss of in-person scientific exchange, and an uncertain job market for trainees, SfN recognizes the need to envision new roles and avenues by which the Society can continue to serve the membership and the field during this unprecedented time.