Dear Friends,

I am writing my last president’s letter in April 2020. 2020 will stand out as a banner year for challenges to the SIVB. For many reasons, the decision process for cancelling the 2020 live meeting could not be shared among the society members. We had a contract with the hotel that would have cost the society a couple of hundred thousand dollars if we had cancelled the meeting on our own. We waited until the California Governor issued Executive Order N-33-20 limiting gatherings to less than 20 people and disallowing the convention center from hosting our meeting. Because this order was in effect until further notice, it allowed SIVB to cancel our contract and be spared the steep penalties. I acknowledge that this period of uncertainty was a strain on everyone and appreciate your understanding during this extraordinary time.

Once it became clear that we could not go forward with the normal meeting format, the executive committee and Board of Directors explored possible options: a) cancel the meeting entirely; b) hold a virtual live meeting with just the Keynote and Plenary Sessions; or c) hold a virtual meeting with prerecorded presentations and posters. We agreed that a major part of our SIVB mission is the dissemination of scientific knowledge. We felt that completely cancelling the meeting was inconsistent with our mission and would deny many prospective participants the opportunity to present their work and others to benefit from those presentations. Think particularly of students. There was also a large negative financial impact to the society with lost registration and meeting donations. The second option b) was rejected for several reasons: first, only the major papers could be included; second, the costs were prohibitive; and third, how could we serve the span of time zones of our participants. We would be spanning 13 time zones from Japan to Belgium. The virtual meeting with prerecorded presentations was selected because it was consistent with our mission, it allowed the SIVB to obtain at least limited registration revenue and retain meeting donations, and allowed the widest possible participation of both presenters and audience. Things are not ideal but then this is not an ideal year. With any such format, there are concerns about confidential data and corporate counsels.

As we know, it is far too easy to capture data from slides. The cell phone and other tools make presentations, either live or on line, subject to capture. One approach to our current situation would be to modify your presentation to focus on data already in the public domain remembering that not everyone in the audience has read all of your papers and so would benefit from this review. This benefit is particularly true for individuals new to your field of study. We may need to be creative.

The change in program format has only added to the challenges faced by our program committee. The program committee is headed by Michael Dame (Program Chair) with Raj Deepika Chauhan (PB Program Chair), Mae Ciancio (IVACS Program Chair), Brett Hale (PB Student Co-chair), Cristofer Calvo (IVACS Student Co-chair), Albert Kausch (Education Chair), Savannah St. Clair (Local Organizing Committee Co-Chair),  Cecilia Zapata (Local Organizing Committee Co-Chair), David Songstad (Local Organizing Committee Member) and Marietta Wheaton Saunders (Meeting Secretariat). This World Congress will be meeting jointly with The Japanese Society of Alternatives to Animal Experiments (Prof. Yasuyuki Sakai, President) and the Japanese Tissue Culture Association (Prof. Isao Asaka, President). We are exceptionally pleased to have Professor Alysson Moutri as our keynote speaker. He was among the first speakers to agree to the virtual format.

Finally, to successfully extricate the SIVB from the San Diego hotel contract without penalty and to organize and format the virtual presentations for our virtual meeting, have taken an inordinate amount of effort by New Beginnings Management, Marietta Wheaton Saunders and Michele Schultz. This has been an emotionally draining period for all of us but would have been far worse without their continuous attention to all the issues before us. I personally owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude for all that they have done and will do to make our 2020 meeting successful.

As we approach our 2020 virtual meeting, let’s see if we can’t make lemonade (or Margaritas) out of the lemons we have been given.

Respectfully yours,
John W. Harbell, Ph.D.
President, SIVB