Two factors were paramount in the Board’s discussion. AOM is, first and foremost, committed to (a) protecting our members’ health and safety and (b) fulfilling our central purpose as a community. Beyond these two driving factors, the Board also considered the financial and legal implications associated with the 2020 AOM Annual Meeting. AOM is a 501c3 US-based non-profit association reliant on registration revenue, membership dues and publishing revenue. AOM signed contracts years ago to host the conference in Vancouver and is financially obligated to conduct the conference. Any decision to host, transform, or cancel a conference the size of AOM 2020 has enormous financial and legal consequences for AOM in both the short- and long-term. That’s why input from divisions and interest groups is so important.
The Executive Committee and Board of Governors met 1-4 April to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on the physical AOM Annual Meeting. The Board’s discussions about COVID-19 were deep and multifaceted reflecting the diverse needs (and constraints) of our members around the world. The safety and health of our members stands at the forefront of many complex issues—the fate of the work submitted by thousands of our valued members, the role of the conference in relation to our mission and identity, the capacity of our volunteers and staff, and our long-term sustainability as an organization. Because of these complex factors, the Board decided to engage with divisions and interest groups and other program leaders more closely before making a final decision about the physical meeting no later than 7 May.
The decision date, 7 May, was chosen for two reasons: (a) it allows us to gather more information from relevant stakeholders, including the critical input of the divisions and interest groups into our strategic planning and implementation and (b) it provides members with 90 days to make or change travel plans. Time is needed to consider COVID-19 developments and study how it has impacted our members in their home countries and institutions. We are also using this time to get a 2020 Annual Meeting Task Force up and running, as it is clear that at least part of the conference will need to be delivered virtually.