Our CEO, Debbie Johnson, would like to address concerns in this open letter to the community about the costs of our eSymposia platform and efforts to provide free access to thousands of students, post-docs, early-career, UR and LMIC scientists.
It has come to our attention that
there are some concerns about the cost of our eSymposia on Twitter. I wanted to address this with all of you.
First, although the cost of
putting on a virtual meeting is indeed less than convening an in-person
conference, it is not free. We incur
costs for broadcast production, which requires weeks of preparation to ensure a
seamless broadcast, and software development of specialized interactive
features that are unique to our meetings.
These interactive features enable networking opportunities and dynamic
discussions among attendees that set the Keystone Symposia experience apart. In addition, our registration rates are comparable
to that of other similar high-quality conference organizations. We are
confident that any previous organizers and attendees would agree. This is no ordinary virtual meeting.
As a non-profit organization, our
motivation is not to make a profit, but to disseminate the latest scientific
advances and insights at the lowest possible price to cover our costs. Our registration prices are set at, or near,
the expected break-even rate for the estimated number of attendees per meeting.
Our meetings are kept small with
Keystone Symposia’s tradition to optimize networking opportunities. This covers
the cost of the digital platform that we use, and staff salaries, who have been
working overtime without additional compensation to ensure that the
organization makes it through this financially challenging time. Over the last year we have had to pay
substantial cancellation costs for dozens of meetings that had to be cancelled
due to COVID, resulting in a large financial loss and deficit for the year. To ensure the future of the Keystone Symposia,
we are all working our hardest to adapt to this new challenge while also
striving to offer value to the scientific community that is expected of us.
In addition, to fulfill our
mission of supporting the next generation of research leaders and promoting diversity,
equity and inclusion through the scientific community, we offer a discounted
student rate. We further offer many opportunities
for free access to students, post-docs and early career scientists, and to those
from underrepresented communities and low-and-middle-income countries. Altogether in 2020 we awarded 2271
scholarships for free attendance to our 12 eSymposia virtual meetings. This has
substantially democratized our meetings, allowing us to reach more trainees and
global audiences with the opportunities afforded by attending top tier
scientific virtual meetings.
I hope this letter addresses the
facts behind these concerns over the cost of the eSymposia. We value your commitment to biomedical
research and the important scientific communities that we serve.
Debbie Johnson, Ph.D.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Keystone Symposia on Molecular and Cellular Biology
Please don't hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
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