Conference updates in times of war

by Vincenzo Pavone

It sounds partially surreal to be quietly sitting at a desk, pondering and composing new and exciting updates on our upcoming conference in Madrid, while the world around me anxiously awaits the latest news on the Ukraine front, with war raging at the borders of the European Union. This was indeed something we did not take into consideration almost a year ago when preparing our proposal to host the next face-to-face EASST conference in Madrid. 

Busy between the hope of a vaccination campaign would eventually bring the pandemic to a close, and the dream of a return to a normality we could no longer imagine so neatly, we were rather more puzzled by the many times we almost reached and suddenly lost the long prophesized herd immunity. And yet, as the process of conference organization unfolded, the world has changed many times. A succession of COVID 19 variants annihilated our hopes of anything even close to herd immunity, the fading effectiveness of the vaccines led many of us to get extra shots and live a life resting on the ability to get a Green Pass or a Covid certificate. And in our distraction, we did not see the gradual emergence of new challenges, beginning with the rising costs of energy and the spiral of inflation. The invasion of Ukraine took us by surprise, still recovering from the slow demise of the Omicron variant, but it was something that we could have seen coming. And now, almost one month into the war, with a tragic stalemate on the horizon, a state of continued violence and stagflation is the most likely short-term scenario, with our lives turned upside down by unaffordable petrol and gas costs, suffering for Ukrainians, concerns about the risk of an escalation of the conflict, and the horror of a nuclear threat.  

Our scientific work, along with our desire to share it beyond national, epistemic and community borders, remains however a fundamental source of hope. Some years ago, reading Sarah Franklin’s book on Biological Relatives, I was struck by her fundamental question on what assisted reproduction techniques reproduce apart from babies.  This question should remind us that conferences like the one we are hoping to join and celebrate in Madrid do not merely reproduce (and advance) scientific knowledge. There is much more about scientific conferences than just the advancement of science. By meeting together, especially in a face-to-face event, we will be “reproducing” our fundamental belief in the value of respect, transparency, solidarity, and collaboration beyond national borders, religious beliefs, ethnic belonging, political sides, etc. This is, alone, the best and most important contribution that our scholarly community may give to Europe in these dark times.  

With these thoughts in mind, it is a pleasure for me to share with you all some news on the conference. We have recently closed the evaluation process for contributions, which took longer than expected because we have transferred the papers that initially did not find space in their original choice of panel two more times. Finally, we have accepted 904 papers, which will be distributed across 187 sessions, 173 of which are open panel sessions, 14 are closed panel sessions and 9 are thematic cluster sessions. Under the current circumstances, we believe this is a fantastic result and we thank all of the authors who submitted their papers, believed in the conference, and made these numbers possible!

Despite COVID restrictions, we have also been able to find an outdoor venue for our conference dinner. It is with pride and pleasure that I can announce that the EASST 2022 dinner will take place on the roof terrace of the Casa Encendida, an emblematic building in the historical center of Madrid, located in the even more emblematic neighborhood of Lavapiés. Lavapiés is a neighborhood that has been traditionally characterized by the presence of migrant populations and has been host to various political and cultural movements during the past 20 years. I myself had the privilege of living there for ten years, and I am especially thrilled that it will be the venue of our dinner. 

After the dinner, we will also have a surprise for you! It will be possible to keep celebrating our conference at a dancing party in the courtyard of the same building, from 11 pm to 2 am. Obviously, participants will be able to choose whether to join just the dinner, just the party, or both. Unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions and soaring prices of outdoor venues, participation is restricted to 250 participants per event.

I have to especially emphasize the amazing work done by the local committee in making all of this possible. Without them, we would not have been able to share of all of this with you.

 We have recently opened the registration process, and we are very much looking forward to meeting you all in Madrid very soon

Vincenzo Pavone,

On behalf of the Local Committee