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Pittcon 2022 is canceled because of COVID-19

As organizers look at a replacement virtual format, other conferences are going ahead in person

by Craig Bettenhausen
January 25, 2022

A photo of a large rotovap on display at Pittcon 2020's exposition.
Credit: Craig Bettenhausen/C&EN
A big draw at many conferences is the exposition, where companies can show off eye-catching products such as this large-scale rotary evaporator on display at Pittcon 2020.

Late last week, the organizers of Pittcon, a major instrumentation and analytical science conference, canceled their 2022 meeting, which was scheduled for March 5-9 in Atlanta. Citing an international increase in COVID-19 cases, the organizers said they are exploring “alternate options for presenting Pittcon 2022.”

“We were experiencing a rising frequency of communication from our attendees, presenters, and exhibitors over the past month,” the organizers wrote in explaining their decision. “This was prompted almost exclusively by concerns surrounding an increase in COVID-19 cases internationally.”

This is the third Pittcon that the pandemic has disrupted. The 2020 meeting in Chicago was one of the last large conventions to take place in the US before lockdowns and travel restrictions set in. Even though the event went ahead, attendance fell to 10,000 from more than 12,000 in 2019. Many exposition booths reserved by non-US companies were empty, and attendees discussed the virus at least as much as they did the latest analytical chemistry equipment. Pittcon 2021 was held virtually.

Many in the scientific community were optimistic that 2022 might be a more normal year for travel, and several organizations were planning to return to in-person events. But the surges of Omicron and Delta variant cases have changed many plans over the past few weeks.

COVID-19 colored

Spring chemistry conference calendar

American Cleaning Institute: In person, Jan. 31–Feb. 4

AAAS Annual Meeting: Virtual, Feb. 17–20

SOCMA Specialty & Custom Chemicals Show: In person, Feb. 28–March 2

ACS Spring Meeting: Hybrid, March 20–24

Pittcon: In person, canceled

Cannabis Science Conference West: In person, postponed until May 18–20

Source: Organizations.

The American Chemical Society’s spring meeting, scheduled for March 20-24 in San Diego, will have both in-person and online options. ACS, which publishes C&EN, says it is following the lead of people signing up to attend. “Since registration opened on Jan. 12, more than 80% of those who completed the process selected to attend in person. It is clear that ACS members are eager to gather in person.”

That hybrid model is similar to what the American Geophysical Union did with its annual conference in December in New Orleans. The meeting was well received, but 94 in-person participants—roughly 1% of the total—reported COVID-19 infection during or immediately after, according to the association.

Some conference goers hope that hybrid formats are here to stay. “I don’t think the nostalgia for in-person conferences fully addresses how inaccessible those events have always been for so many scientists,” says freelance science journalist Ariana Remmel, a former C&EN Editorial Fellow who attended the geophysical union meeting in person.

As conference organizers recover from the pandemic upheaval, they “are finally listening to the perspectives of researchers from historically excluded communities,” Remmel says. “It’s an opportunity to lay a new foundation for making the scientific community more inclusive.”



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