By Margaret Leinen, President, American Geophysical Union; Eric Davidson, President-elect, American Geophysical Union; and Chris McEntee, Executive Director/CEO, American Geophysical Union
As we notified you last December, the Moscone Center’s renovation plans pose a significant risk to our ability to deliver a successful scientific program at the Fall Meeting. While the end result will leave San Francisco with new flexible spaces and improved technology infrastructure, the disruption would impact AGU’s ability to provide the optimal space for scientific engagement in 2017 and 2018. That would mean potentially fewer sessions and lectures, and constraints around new formats and activities that are in development.
Because we did not deem that risk to be acceptable, the AGU Board of Directors tasked staff with seeking out and evaluating alternative locations for both 2017 and 2018.
This was not a decision we took lightly. For nearly 50 years, the AGU Fall Meeting has been held in San Francisco, and during that time it has become one of the most well-regarded scientific meetings in the world. We know that the science is your primary reason for attending any AGU meeting, so finding a location that – through its meeting spaces and other amenities – can support new and innovative ways for you to share your science with one another and make connections that will help to advance Earth and space science research for us all, was essential. To be sure that our decision was in line with your needs and expectations, we consulted with the Council and surveyed meeting attendees and members to learn what factors had the biggest impact on the success of their Fall Meeting experience.
The top priorities that emerged were the ability of the space to facilitate networking and connecting and the convenience of the location in terms of hotel space, walkability and public transit. Additional widely supported factors included: ease of getting to the city, cost, and city amenities, as well as flexibility of the space to support both current programming and options for new programming. Participants were also offered the opportunity to share open-ended feedback. Though some lamented the prospect of leaving the tradition of meeting in San Francisco, in general, they viewed the change in venue as an opportunity to overcome some of the inconveniences associated with the Fall Meeting being held in San Francisco and as an opportunity to experiment with other venues.
We met yesterday to discuss those alternatives, and are pleased to announce that New Orleans has been selected as the location for the 2017 Fall Meeting and Washington, D.C. has been selected for the 2018 meeting. AGU’s Centennial is taking place in 2019, and we are planning to return to San Francisco to celebrate in the expanded and improved Moscone Center 9 – 13 December 2019.
Given the scope and size of the meeting, the list of alternative locations was not endless. Only 10-12 cities in the U.S. have the potential to meet our most basic criteria. Staff carefully considered all these locations, taking into account not only a city’s ability to accommodate AGU’s preferred meeting dates and provide the needed transit and hotel options, but more importantly, its ability to offer the space and flexibility we need to create a program that will advance your science and allow our attendees to find and connect with others who share their passion.
Armed with the Council feedback and the survey results, staff was able to evaluate the options, eliminate some, and present to the Board a carefully and thoughtfully selected subset, from which we ultimately selected one for each year that represents the best opportunity to support the future of the Fall Meeting.
For 2017, New Orleans emerged as the top city based on the fact that its meeting space is all under one roof, thus allowing us to support existing programming, pilot new models for presenting, engaging and sharing scientific research and findings, and accommodate all of the planned and impromptu connections and meetings that occur each year. It also offers a great deal of convenience to our attendees (e.g., the number of hotel rooms within one mile), and the city was able to accommodate our preferred dates at low cost and provide abundant amenities (e.g., proximity of restaurants and entertainment). New Orleans was not chosen as a location for the 2018 meeting because the city is already hosting other meetings during AGU’s preferred dates, and those commitments would likely affect our access to preferred and abundant hotel space.
Washington, D.C. was chosen for 2018 for many of the same reasons. The DC Convention Center and partner hotels are in very close proximity, allowing us to support a variety of programming and networking opportunities that will help celebrate and advance our science. As the center of U.S. national government, Washington provides countless new opportunities for engagement within and outside of the scientific community. The city’s extensive and easily navigable mass transit system (Metro) will make getting to and from the meeting simple, and there are plenty of convenient, and in many cases walkable, hotels and amenities. Washington, D.C. was not chosen for 2017 because it could not accommodate our preferred meeting dates. Washington is also home to AGU’s headquarters building, and we expect that some exciting renovations will be completed by 2018, which we would be delighted to show off to members during tours scheduled during the meeting.
An added value of choosing these two locations is that we are able to provide a different travel experience for our international attendees (as well as for some of our U.S.-based attendees). When the meeting is located on the West Coast, as it has been for years, the travel burden for European attendees increases. When it is located on the East Coast, that burden shifts somewhat to our Asian and Western Pacific attendees. By offering East Coast, West Coast and Central locations, we are able to disperse that burden across our potential pool of attendees.
Now that the locations for the 2017 and 2018 meetings have been determined, we will begin working to ensure that you, our members and attendees, will have the highest quality meeting experience possible. While it will not be a small task, we are confident that our capable staff and dedicated volunteers are up to the challenge. As their planning progresses, we look forward to being able to share with you all the wonderful new opportunities that await us in New Orleans and Washington, D.C., and all of the new and exciting ways we will be helping to advance Earth and space science through the Fall Meeting.