GSA 2020 (updated 11 Aug. 2020)
(Please click here to see a version of an email that went out to seminar conveners, roundtable conveners, panels and presenters, and individual paper presenters on July 21.)
Virtual Conference FAQ
(Please check back regularly for updates.)
General information about the move to a virtual conference:
- Why are we switching our annual conference?
Current health conditions make it impossible for us to plan to meet in person. Many of our members have research agendas that require them to have the opportunity to present this year, so we want to make sure that the conference takes place in some form. We are in the process of finalizing a contract with a virtual conference company to help construct and run the conference, and the Marriott Crystal Gateway hotel in Arlington has very generously agreed to let us out of our contract without financial penalties.
- Why now? Couldn’t this decision have been made and announced any sooner?
Ideally, we would have loved to make the decision sooner so that the membership could plan their fall better, but we first needed to consult with the full GSA Board at a special meeting in mid-June. Then it took until the first week of July to both negotiate the termination of our contract with the hotel in Arlington, VA and to see presentations from possible companies to run the virtual conference. We were only able to consider all the competing offers together in the second week of July.
- Who will plan the virtual conference?
In the GSA, responsibility for conference planning rests with the program committee, overseen by the Executive Director and the Program Director. The colleagues on this committee had completed the bulk of conference planning before the onset of the pandemic. Since then, the Executive Council has been meeting regularly to monitor the situation, calling a Board meeting in mid-July which ratified the decision to move to a virtual format. Members of the Executive Council (comprised of the President, the Executive Director, the Vice President, the Secretary, the Treasurer, and the Past President) have all assisted in guiding conference planning, working together with the Program Director Joanne Cho, Operations Director Benita Blessing, and representatives of the company providing the infrastructure for our virtual conference.
Let us know what your panel/roundtable/seminar wishes to do in 2020:
- What will the virtual conference look like?
We plan to run the conference for fewer hours per day over more days. We intend to begin on the evening of Tuesday, September 29 with a plenary session and an Arts Night event, and continue through Sunday October 4. Sessions will each last 90 minutes, and there will only be sessions scheduled between the hours of 11:00 and 16:00 on the United States East Coast. This will, we believe, make it as simple as possible for members in most time zones to attend. We know this conference will not feel like most of our conferences, and many of us will miss an opportunity to see friends in person. But, running the conference this way may offer some exciting opportunities. We hope, for example, that pre-recorded presentations can be made available for a limited time after the end of the conference, so that the usual trouble of wanting to attend sessions scheduled at the same time won’t be an issue.
- How do I let the GSA know what my panel wants to do?
Please note: The deadline for decisions about sessions presenting this year virtually or postponing until 2021 in Indianapolis has passed. If we did not hear from you, your paper/session has been added to the list of postponements for 2021. We will be in contact in November 2020 with updated information for you. Questionnaires have been sent Seminar organizers. Questionnaires will be sent the week of 20 July to Seminar organizers, Pre-formed Panel organizers, Roundtable organizers, and all Individual Paper members. If you are part of a Seminar, Pre-formed Panel, or Roundtable, please contact the organizing individual if they do not contact you. If you have an Individual Paper submission, you will receive a separate email from the Program Committee with a separate questionnaire. We will need all responses by Friday 31 July at 5pm Eastern Time (USA). Anyone who does not respond by then will be assumed to be delayed until 2021. Only answers to the questionnaire will be considered binding: preferences already communicated to the Operations and/or Program Directors will need to be repeated.
Postponing to 2021:
- My group (panel, roundtable, seminar) would prefer to meet in person. Can we postpone until 2021?
Anyone may postpone a panel, a roundtable, a seminar, and even an individual paper, until 2021. Entire panels may be postponed with or without changes (see next question). Roundtables and seminars must either present this year or postpone to next year, but individuals not in agreement with their roundtable or seminar’s collective decision may cancel their participation without penalty.
- What if some people on the panel want to present this year virtually, but others don’t?
Ideally, panel members can come to a consensus, but if that is not possible, we will allow panels with as few as two presenters to present virtually. Individual presenters who wish to postpone, but whose panel does not want to postpone may present in 2021, but will have to be entered as an individual paper unless they can constitute a new panel. If a panel wishes to postpone to 2021 but has individual presenters who prefer to virtually present in 2020, that panel will be moved forward to 2021 as an incomplete panel unless they can find an additional participant. Note that the organization for the 2021 conference will not take place before the 2020 conference has concluded.
Special 2020 Conference Events:
- Will there be an Arts Night?
Arts Night has become a vital part of the GSA conference experience. Although this year’s virtual format will not permit a traditional event, we do plan to offer special, online “Arts Night” presentations before the conference to draw attention both to the arts in the German-speaking world and to our larger virtual conference. We hope that as many of you as possible can attend these events. Please watch this space for details (names, times, etc.) as they become available!
- What about the Award Ceremony?
Yes, there will be an awards ceremony during the virtual conference! This year, as usual, we will be announcing the winners of the DAAD/GSA Prize for the Best Book in Germanistik ot Cultural Studies, the DAAD/GSA Prize for the Best Book in History or Social Sciences, the DAAD/GSA Article Prize, the Prize for the Best Essay in German Studies by a Graduate Student, and the Radomir Luza Prize for an Outstanding Work in Austrian and/or Czechoslovak History in the 20th Century, The Sybil Halpern Milton Prize for the Best Book in Holocaust and Genocide Studies is awarded every other year, and will next be awarded in 2021. Please watch this space for information regarding the date and time of the awards ceremony.
- Will the General Meeting of the GSA be held as usual at the conference?
In order to avoid overscheduling during the scheduled days of the GSA, when many of us already feel stretched in any given week, the Executive Council decided to move this year’s General Meeting to a later date to be announced. All members will receive an invitation to attend and raise issues, and submit their questions both in advance and at the meeting, which will take the form of a Virtual Town Hall.
Presenting in 2020:
- What will I need to participate in the virtual conference?
The conference will use the Zoom platform for all panels, seminars, roundtables, and plenary events. If you are familiar with Zoom or a similar platform and have been able to participate in similar events, you will be able to join the GSA conference as well. If you are presenting, you will need a computer with a webcam and microphone and a reliable internet connection. We will provide more detailed information in Training Guides provided by the company hosting the virtual conference.
- Will papers be delivered live?
The company hosting the virtual conference will have options to either present papers live or to pre-record them as well as how-to videos and instructions. We hope that many presenters will choose to pre-record so that as many members in the GSA across all timezones will have an opportunity to hear as many presentations as possible.
- How will seminars work?
Seminars whose participants have chosen to participate this year will have three-day sessions as usual. There will be no availability for auditors this year.
- Will there be an option for pre-recorded (asynchronous) presentations, and if so, will there be an option for us to get and give feedback during the conference?
There will be the option for panels to pre-record presentations and work with a chat or Slack channel to offer feedback. The channel could be left open for longer than just the scheduled time of the panel to allow more members to view the presentations.
- If I agreed to be a commentator or moderator but don’t want to be in that function anymore, can I be replaced?
We are very grateful to those members who volunteer to comment or moderate a panel. We realize that this is an unusual year. If plans have changed, please let us know. Likewise, if someone would like to volunteer to take over a moderating or commenting position (who is not otherwise promised), that would be wonderful. In either case, please get in touch with the Operations Director, Dr. Benita Blessing, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Will sessions be recorded?
All sessions will have a recording option. Recording requires consent by all panelists, including moderator and commentator. Recorded sessions will be maintained on the conference website for one month after the conclusion of the proceedings; they will remain available to registered participants only.
- How can we guarantee that no one downloads the recording and uses it without my permission?
The conference platform will not provide any downloading options for videos on the site.
- I live in a different timezone than the other panelists. Can we request a time so that everyone can easily present together?
Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate requests for specific times to help with this issue. We are trying to schedule all panels in times that are as unburdensome as we can make them. There will be the opportunity to pre-record presentations that should help. However, just as at an in-person conference, where we are unable to accommodate all scheduling requests, we hope you will understand that we cannot accommodate all time-zone-based requests for our virtual conference either.
2020 Conference Registration:
- How will conference registration and fees work?
The GSA has worked hard to keep registration fees low over the years, even in view of rising costs. We rely on these fees to cover expenses related to the conference, including a virtual conference. We hope that in the absence of travel and lodging expenses, the regular registration fee will not impose an undue burden on our members. Those for whom it does and who find themselves unemployed or precariously employed under this pandemic are encouraged to apply for assistance through the GSA Community Support Fund that we created last Spring with this purpose in mind. Details on eligibility and the application process will be announced here and on the website.
- Wait, isn’t Zoom free? Why should a virtual conference cost as much as an in-person conference?
Although the cost for Zoom licenses themselves is not exorbitant, webinar and video-conferencing are not free—especially so when used at the scale of a 1000+ person conference. Not only is there a cost for the web technology, but managing a conference of this size requires that we hire a professional company to make sure that everything runs smoothly (consider the need for an interface that can replace the conference hotel as a site to congregate virtually; imagine the “wait, are you on mute?” frustration many of us have experienced over the last few weeks multiplied by dozens of sessions without professional IT support; or think about potential vulnerabilities to Zoom-bombing). We have finalized a contract with the provider OpenWater for a variety of services for the event, including scheduling, technical support, and online as well as training resources. The cost for this virtual conference host is significant. Finally, although the GSA remains one of the few scholarly organizations run without full-time staff, we do have expenses for hourly and honorarium contracts with colleagues who ensure the GSA operations.
- How will we support participation of all members, especially those who have been most deeply impacted by the financial hit of COVID?
In light of the global health pandemic resulting from the emergence of the Covid-19 virus, the GSA began a targeted fundraising campaign in 2020. “The GSA Community Fund” supports the participation of a diverse body of conference presenters and attendees as part of the 2020 conference. Details on eligibility and the application process will be announced here and on the website. The donation link to “The GSA Community Fund” can be found on the membership page of the GSA website: https://thegsa.org/members/join.
- I can’t attend the conference this year. Can I donate the cost of my registration fee to someone in financial need?
First of all, thank you in advance for your generosity. Donations may be made here: https://www.thegsa.org/blog/donate-gsa
Questions for Publishers and Exhibitors:
I’m a publisher/similar group:
- I want to advertise in the program. How can I?
There will not be a traditional printed program this year. The company with which we are working will create an easily accessible Exhibitors’ Gallery as part of the online program. It will be available before the online conference begins. The Gallery will enable individual publishers to advertise their publications.
Update: You can find more information about how to exhibit virtually here.
- How can I feature my books and meet with potential authors, etc.?
The Exhibitors’ Gallery will enable individual exhibitors to display their books and journals in formats that work best for each publisher. Publishers’ blogs could work very well in this space. We’ll also provide opportunities for publishers and potential authors to meet during the conference. Details will follow in this space!
- What can I do to help make the 2020 Annual Conference a positive experience?
This is a new venture for all of us, and we are so grateful for your patience and understanding. We hope that as many members as possible will participate in the conference. Panels need an audience! If you have ideas or suggestions about how to help us, please get in touch with either David Barclay [email@example.com] or Benita Blessing [firstname.lastname@example.org].