WSC 2022 in-person only (and details of plans for moving to a hybrid model from 2023)
The Weight Stigma Conference was founded in 2013 as a not-for-profit event and remains so to this day. Every year, ticket prices are set at break even levels and fundraising efforts continue almost till the day of the event to try and raise additional money that can be used to subsidise attendance for those who might otherwise not have been able to afford it.
We have also implemented a number of initiatives to increase access to and benefits from the conference. These have included mentoring for students (especially those from smaller institutions who may not have access to suitable supervision) and non-academics who had interesting ideas but weaker abstract submissions, crowdfunding a Bursary Fund, and paying for a CrossRef subscription so that we can assign DOIs to submissions so that students and those in the early stages of their career can strengthen their CVs. We have even managed to wangle accommodation in a handful of cases to tip the balance for students to be able to attend.
Additionally, the conference brochure (containing all abstracts and presenter contact details) is always freely available after the event, as are any slides, posters, or presentation materials that presenters are willing to share publicly. Thus, the majority of the content presented at the WSC is accessible to all.
However, we are aware that this is not the same as being able to attend and/or present virtually. This is a question that has arisen in the past, even prior to the necessities of the pandemic. It has always been a difficult decision for a conference that cares about social justice issues, but whose greatest contribution to the presenters and delegates experience is often simply being in the room. We remain a small conference and in the past, the decision has been made to focus on the in-person event. This is the reason that we chose not to move online during 2020-2021. In the last two years, we have also increasingly seen several larger conferences utilise a hybrid model. For the most part, this has been effective at transmitting information but largely underwhelming as a conference experience.
However, precluding virtual attendance is an increasingly untenable position in this day and age and one that should have been addressed earlier. Members of the conference team plus a number of external advisors have explored our options for increasing access to the conference. We understand that traveling, especially internationally, is not something that everyone is able to do financially, physically, and safely. We have been asking ourselves hard questions about what it would look like to move towards a hybrid model of this conference and how we can move forward responsibility within our limited budget.
Below, we will outline our reason for remaining non-hybrid in 2022, but also our longer-term plans to increase accessibility to the conference.
This year’s conference has a unique and critical focus on policy. Not only will it be held in Senate Hall at Humboldt University in Berlin, but local politicians and press will be attending to learn more about the mobilisation happening in Germany around anti-discrimination laws protecting fat people. Due to the activism and hard work of local activists, Germany may become one of the first countries to have legal protections implemented for people in bigger bodies.
Because of the high stakes of this year’s conference and the potential to impact actual laws and policy, the more people we have attending in person, the more powerful our message will be. Therefore our focus for this year is on increasing in-person attendance.
This has been a very difficult decision to make but we hope it is the right one to maximise the potential policy benefits of focusing the event on the ground in Berlin. But in addition, to our current policy of making abstracts and presentations freely available after the event, we will also make audio recordings of this year’s conference keynote sessions, and these will also be available after the conference for those who would like to hear what unfolded.
Beginning in 2023, we will be adopting a tiered rollout for increasing access online.
Next year’s conference will be in the United States and it will feature live online access passes for all of our keynotes, talks, and panels along with a few online meet-ups and group activities. People will be able to ask questions virtually in the live sessions and live captions will also be available.
Our 2024 conference will feature a fully hybrid model including both virtual and in-person access for presenters and attendees, hybrid workshops, networking, and more. We are carefully researching alternatives and ways to successfully bring online and in-person conference experiences together to ensure everyone gets the most from this experience, regardless of location.
We are excited about what’s to come and we look forward to seeing you in July in Berlin.