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Task Force on Congress Contingency Planning

Task Force on Congress Contingency Planning


Update from the Co-Chairs


August 20, 2020 

Dear representatives of associations participating in Congress 2021,

Three weeks ago, the Federation and the University of Alberta announced the creation of a Task Force on Congress Contingency Planning, with the aim to assess the risks associated with COVID-19 and provide some recommendations around the possibilities of hybrid and/or virtual participation. Since then, the Task Force already met twice, and will continue to meet regularly in the next few weeks in order to have draft recommendations ready for review by participating associations at the Virtual Planning Meeting on September 22 and 24, 2020. By November 1, a complete plan will be announced, with details about format, registration, and other essential information for planning your association’s meetings and activities. 

One clear outcome from the Task Force’s preliminary discussions is that we need to plan in advance for a Congress during which people can participate virtually. The Federation and the University of Alberta are ready to provide the environment that is needed for researchers, graduate students, policy makers and practitioners to come together, share ideas, collaborate, and contribute to the dialogue, in the true spirit of Congress. Associations are encouraged to go ahead and organize their call-for-papers under the usual timeline, and to communicate to their members that they will effectively be presenting their research at Congress 2021. As you lay your plans for Congress 2021, please bear in mind our timeline for contingency planning and be prepared as best as possible to work alongside the Federation and the University of Alberta in the delivery of a successful Congress experience for your members.

A Congress with a strong virtual component may present specific challenges for advancing equity and decolonization conversations, practices, and engaging historically marginalized and Indigenous communities. Our plans will be informed by the advice of the Congress Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization (EDID). We are committed to decolonization, and to an accessible, equitable, diverse, and inclusive Congress.

A Congress with a strong virtual component is also an unprecedented opportunity. It is a chance for all of us to widen our reach, and open our research to areas, communities, audiences and collaborations to which we did not have access before. With the success of the Federation’s Virtual Conference Week and the University of Alberta’s experience hosting around-the-world virtual conferences, we have the resources, capacity and expertise to support you and your association every step of the way. Together we can take Congress to a completely new level and create a legacy for future academic gatherings.     

We will be providing updates regularly as things unfold and the Task Force reaches new milestones on this page. Thank you for trusting us in offering you the guidance and support you need to ensure the success of your 2021 association conference, and the success of Congress.


Michael O’Driscoll, Task Force Co-Chair, Academic Convenor, Congress 2021, University of Alberta

Laura Chajkowski, Task Force Co-Chair, Director, Congress and Events, Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences



The Federation and the University of Alberta launch a Task Force on Congress Contingency Planning


July 30, 2020

When the decision was made this spring to cancel Congress 2020, we knew it was the beginning of a new journey where we would work on answering important questions about the future of Congress.

The virtual conferences the Federation spearheaded with four associations in early June demonstrated the potential for our community to meet, exchange ideas and contribute to the national dialogue without being in the same room, or on the same campus; but it also confirmed a number of challenges. As much as we all would like to see Congress 2021 taking place entirely at the University of Alberta next year, we cannot ignore the uncertainty of the situation and the associated risks, and we need to plan for all possibilities. Our goal is to provide you with a rich, fulfilling, long-lasting experience, while keeping you safe.

The University of Alberta and the Federation have specially appointed a Task Force on Congress Contingency Planning, composed of the following members:

  • Michael O’Driscoll (Co-Chair), Academic Convenor, Congress 2021
  • Laura Chajkowski (Co-Chair), Director, Congress and Events, Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Jennifer Andrews, Past President, Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English, Federation Board member
  • Xiaobei Chen, President, Canadian Sociological Association
  • Ryan Katz-Rosene, President, Environmental Studies Association of Canada
  • Temitope Oriola, President, Canadian Association of African Studies
  • Geoffrey Rockwell, President, Canadian Society for Digital Humanities, Kule Institute for Advanced Study
  • Lynn Thomas, Past President, Canadian Society for the Study of Education

This task force will:

  • provide recommendations to the Federation following an assessment of risks for Congress 2021 and future congresses, particularly those associated with COVID-19;
  • identify issues associated with online participation in Congress, including cybersecurity, privacy, accessibility and equity issues; and
  • identify opportunities for innovations that enhance Congress and help it to achieve its strategic objectives.

The work on contingency planning must also be informed by recommendations from the newly appointed Congress Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization (EDID) to ensure that the innovations will improve access, remove barriers to participation and create safe spaces for dialogue and debate.

In order to have contingency plans in place ahead of time and ensure the event will be a success regardless of travel or meeting restrictions, the work will begin immediately, and preliminary recommendations for the various contingencies will be identified and shared with association representatives at the Planning Meeting in September 2020. Taking any feedback into consideration, those recommendations will be formalized in October and an announcement of our plans for the delivery of Congress 2021 will be made in early November. While the Task Force is at work, we will continue to plan for both in-person and virtual Congress experiences, without excluding the possibility of a hybrid situation that would include a combination of both formats. As more information is brought forward, we will adjust our plans accordingly and provide updates to our members.

Congress is built on partnership, and to be successful, it will require a close collaboration between the Federation, the University of Alberta and the more than 70 scholarly associations that meet at Congress each year. Together we will work in finding safe, sustainable solutions to the challenges that lie ahead.

For any comments or questions, please contact federation@ideas-idees.ca.

About the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
The Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences promotes research and teaching for the advancement of an inclusive, democratic and prosperous society. With a membership now comprising over 160 universities, colleges and scholarly associations, the Federation represents a diverse community of 91,000 researchers and graduate students across Canada. The Federation organizes Canada’s largest academic gathering, the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, bringing together more than 8,000 participants each year. For more information about the Federation, visit www.ideas-idees.ca. The Federation office is located on the traditional, unceded Algonquin territory in Ottawa.

About the University of Alberta
The University of Alberta in Edmonton is one of Canada’s top teaching and research universities, with an international reputation for excellence across the humanities, sciences, creative arts, business, engineering, and health sciences. Home to more than 40,000 students and 15,000 faculty and staff, the university has an annual budget of $1.9 billion and attracts more than $500 million in sponsored research revenue. The U of A offers close to 900 rigorous undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in 18 faculties on five campuses—including one rural and one francophone campus. The university has more than 275,000 alumni worldwide. The University of Alberta acknowledges that we are located on Treaty 6 territory, and respects the histories, languages, and cultures of First Nations, Métis, Inuit, and all First Peoples of Canada, whose presence continues to enrich our vibrant community.