2021 NERA Conference Format Update

Dear NERA Members and Colleagues, 
We hope this email finds you all safe, healthy, and enjoying the beginning of summer.   
We are reaching out today to provide an update on the 2021 NERA conference.  For the past eight months, we have been working diligently to explore all possibilities for delivering a dynamic conference. We cannot thank you enough for your patience and support throughout this time. The various points of feedback received through our surveys have been instrumental in guiding us through our decision-making process, and we are so grateful for your participation. 
The 2021 conference team has decided that our annual conference will be a VIRTUAL only event, held October 13-15, 2021.  Please know that this was a very difficult decision. While we are confident that we can provide a safe, in-person conference experience, the reality is that the majority of our members expressed a preference for attending virtually. We understand that in many cases budgets have been cut, travel has been restricted, and there is still uncertainty and concern around the state of the pandemic this upcoming fall.  We completely understand, respect, and fully support these opinions.  
We are also aware of and appreciate the members who are supportive of an in-person conference. However, based on survey responses, a hybrid conference would potentially yield very low in-person attendance, which would make it very difficult for us to cover the in-person conference costs. Additionally, we would have the added costs of livestreaming. While we have tried to remain optimistic and hopeful that we could deliver a hybrid conference, when coupling the potential majority virtual attendance with the desire to maintain a cohesive conference experience for everyone and for the organization, these were the major factors that contributed to our decision.
Although we had been hoping to be together in person at the conference this year, rest assured that we have already started thinking of ways to virtually replicate all the things that make the annual NERA conference amazing! Fortunately, we have had over a year to think about and plan for the possibility of a virtual conference, so we fully intend to have a robust and interactive program available for you. We received 140 proposal submissions, which means that we’ll have a large selection of live sessions and virtual posters on a diverse range of topics. We also have a great lineup of keynote speakers, invited panels, symposiums, and workshops planned, all of which will continue forward in a virtual format.
In addition, we’re very excited to introduce a new, innovative way to facilitate socialization and networking, and maintain the spontaneous community aspect of the annual conference that we all know and love. For a sneak peek of what we have planned, visit https://gather.town/ and try out a demo. We might not be at the Trumbull Marriott physically this year, but we’ll still be able to be together in a virtual facsimile! We can’t wait to unveil more details about this as the conference approaches.
We want to sign off with a sincere thank you to you, our current and prospective members. You have been so supportive of the NERA leadership and conference co-chairs as we’ve worked to make the best decision for NERA as an organization and for our members. We appreciate your patience and understanding and can’t wait to “see” you all at the conference this year!
If you have any questions about this decision, please contact Steven Holtzman at sholtzman@ets.org, but please also continue to send questions about the conference to the co-chairs at NERA.CoChairs@gmail.com.
Steven Holtzman
Your NERA President
Hank Johnson, Haifa Matos, Liz Spratto, and Jonathan Steinberg
NERA 2021 Conference Co-Chairs

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