SPIE begins return from COVID-19

26 August 2021

While everyone’s situation is different and COVID-19 remains challenging for many in the optics and photonics community, recovery has begun. Enabled by the availability of vaccines and improvements in diagnosis and treatment, we see a different picture than one year ago.

We have heard that many of you are eager to get together again and that a computer screen is not a true substitute for the in-person conference experience. Our experience organizing SPIE events has revealed countless examples of human connection and serendipity that Zoom windows cannot match. While the pace of recovery varies by country and province, we are optimistic about the eventual return to in-person events and a “new” normal in 2022.

In California, local health professionals indicated SPIE Optics + Photonics could be safely held in San Diego the first week in August, and we successfully hosted over 1300 attendees and 100-plus exhibitors at our first in-person conference in 18 months. While the Delta variant did lead to some last-minute changes in mask wearing recommendations and requirements, as well as moving some events outdoors, it was great to see many in our community back together discussing research and reconnecting face-to-face. During the week we heard repeatedly from authors, attendees, and exhibitors that they were ecstatic to be back in a convention center seeing each-other in person.

Despite the success of Optics + Photonics, the continued spread of the Delta variant and the resulting changes in both health recommendations and government requirements mean the status of events and the onsite expectations are fluid.

We have recently announced Photonics West, the largest North American conference and exhibition for the photonics community, will require vaccination to attend. Following current government requirements, we will also require masks for everyone indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Both requirements are in line with recent adjustments to both California and San Francisco requirements for indoor events of more than 1000 people.

Smaller events being held in person this Fall may also have changing requirements as we get closer to their dates. We will keep all attendees aware of changes with enough notice for everyone to make appropriate accommodations.

The safety of our attendees and staff comes first. If local health and government recommendations do not allow for in-person events, SPIE will continue to transform these conferences into Digital Forums.

We expect that masks, low-touch interactions, appropriate physical distance, frequent handwashing, and other safe-meeting characteristics will become part of the event experience. For many of us, vaccines will provide essential protection and confidence that we may plan to travel to technical conferences and reconnect with our community. We believe that the undeniable benefits of face-to-face interaction are worth the effort of this new normal, and SPIE will promote and require whatever is deemed necessary from health professionals.

SPIE will do our part to ensure the health and safety of participants, suppliers, and staff attending our conferences. As part of this commitment, all SPIE staff will be fully vaccinated prior to arriving on-site. Please remember that we all contribute to a safe environment by taking care of ourselves and following guidelines to keep everyone safe. Working together, we will have safe conferences.

If the local, regional, or national regulations do not allow for in-person events, SPIE is ready with options for remote participation, including live-stream and on-demand presentations, keynote talks, and panel sessions.

Please see our event homepages for the current status of individual events.

We continue to offer many technology, industry, and professional development webinars via SPIE.Online that support lifelong learning and opportunities to connect with peers. With new online events weekly, we aim to provide valuable content for everyone’s schedule and interests and hope you are able to join us.

We very much look forward to the continued recovery and improvement of global conditions related to the pandemic. As we begin to reconnect and meet in person, we know that situations are varied across our diverse membership and constituency and will continue to serve all in the most safe and inclusive ways possible.

We are not only looking forward to reconnecting in person at our valued conferences. We are preparing for it, are ready for changing conditions, and promise to keep your health and safety as our number one priority at all of our events.

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