The Future of Annual Meetings and Scholarly Societies
This research project on the future of scholarly meetings was conducted by Ithaka S+R and JSTOR Labs in partnership with representatives from 17 scholarly societies and with generous funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. A cohort of co-learners met regularly throughout 2022 and into early 2023 for strategic discussions and design-informed workshops about the challenges facing scholarly conferences and opportunities for change. Individual sessions within our institute focused on financial models for virtual and hybrid meetings, meeting member needs, working with boards, and a design jam to develop concrete innovations, as shown on the schedule below.
Scholarly societies have long traditions of hosting conferences, yet too often convention rather than purpose drives decisions on content and format. Experiments with conference design should begin with a clear articulation of purpose.
The structure and content of meetings send strong signals about an organization’s priorities and values. Decisions-making about conferences should be calibrated to reflect a society’s mission and goals.
Making significant changes to meeting formats involves risk, but new conference modalities provide even greater opportunities to increase the impact and accessibility of scholars, build and empower diverse research communities, and improve the sustainability of societies.
Hybrid conferences are already here, but hybrid is best envisioned as a changeable cluster of possibilities rather than a single format.