Dear BISA Colleagues,
As we begin preparations for the BISA Conference 2024, to take place in Birmingham, we are writing to let you know that the conference will be an in-person-only event. As in 2023, this decision has not been taken lightly, and various factors have shaped our view:
- BISA is a small professional association with very limited income streams and a very small permanent staff. With the ongoing legacy effects of COVID, which have hit all professional associations very hard, and UK inflation rates extremely high, costs of the conference are escalating, and we only have limited funds available, both for the conference, and to sustain the extensive programme of events we run across the year. The trustees have to be responsible in sustaining an adequate financial reserve to secure BISA’s financial future, and must therefore proceed with caution in investing in activities and events beyond our financial means.
- The cost of running a fully hybrid conference with the technology required to make it a success are astronomical and would lead to a doubling of our conference costs. We simply do not have the financial resources to absorb this ourselves and so this would lead to a doubling of conference fees.
- The in-person conferences in June 2022 and June 2023, which many of you attended, reminded us all of the incredible value of bringing people together in person for our flagship annual event. We received many enthusiastic comments from many attendees about how much they enjoyed re-engaging in person, through our conference survey and feedback directly to trustees and staff.
- We did also run a virtual programme the day before the conference in 2022, but this was a more mixed experience. Participation levels were low, with the majority of virtual panels attended only by the contributors to the panel. Meanwhile, the costs and resources required to run a parallel virtual programme are significant, both in terms of staff resourcing and equipment and facilities. In light of rising hospitality costs and inflation, which will already see an increase in conference fees, we do not want to have to implement a further rise to cover the cost of a virtual component, knowing that participants might well feel quite let down by the experience.
We know that this will be disappointing news for some of you, but rest assured the rest of our conference highlights will carry on as normal. We continue to be the only International Studies Association to offer coffee breaks, lunches and a networking reception as part of the conference fee, as well as conference fee and childcare bursaries. Birmingham 2023 will be no exception.
We will continue to invest in a comprehensive programme of virtual events throughout the year. From January 2022 to July 2023, we hosted 75 virtual events with more than 1,600 attendees. These were a mix of workshops, roundtables, specialist panels, guest speaker events, continuing professional development and training events, and networking opportunities, run by our specialist working groups, Postgraduate Network and by the BISA team and trustees. Sustaining our virtual events programme is a key commitment for BISA, to ensure access for as many as people as possible, and be particularly mindful of those who will face challenges travelling to our in-person events, whether because of travel or financial restrictions, workload management, or caring responsibilities. We hope that our members continue to agree that this is a very valuable way in which we can continue to realise our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion commitments, as well as acting responsibly towards future generations in light of the unprecedented and very dangerous climate crisis the planet faces. We hope that our ongoing virtual events offer throughout the year will provide ample opportunities for research collaboration and networking to colleagues who are not able to attend the annual conference.
We are constantly reviewing our position, including adding new events that would be online and additional forms of support for colleagues who must travel to the UK to attend in person events.
We look forward to seeing you in our virtual and in-person spaces in the coming 12 months.
Kyle Grayson (BISA Chair)