A Message from President Stephanie Bohon

Dear SSS Colleagues:  

One of the pervasive challenges of COVID is that it makes our planning of SSS 2022 extremely difficult.  In our recent membership survey, about one-third of you said that you were planning on attending the 2022 annual meeting in Birmingham.  Most respondents, however, said they didn’t know if they would attend; they cited uncertainty around COVID as the major reason for their uncertainty.  

As you are trying to decide whether to submit a paper abstract, a full session, or other ideas for our annual meeting, we thought you might find it helpful to know what the SSS leadership is thinking right now.  We cancelled our 2020 meeting and moved our 2021 meeting online anticipating that soon it would be completely safe to meet again face-to-face.  We are now coming to realize that it may never be as safe as before 2020.  As you know, most of the world lives in conditions where being around others is always risky, and, sadly, we have joined them.  Many of us are also back to work in conditions that are unsafe.  At my university, we do not have a vaccine mandate, and we re-opened without social distancing.  So given the conditions in which we already work and given the possibility that right now is the new normal, we believe that it is necessary to find a way to meet face-to-face but in a way where most of us are safer at the SSS meetings than we are at work. As such, we are preparing for a safe SSS 2022 in Birmingham and we have ideas about how to do this.   

First, a face-to-face meeting in Birmingham will be for the vaccinated.  We are working on hybrid scenarios—not all of which are logistically or financially feasible—but there will be some way for those who cannot or will not vaccinate to participate in part (likely) or in full (less likely) from home.  Second, everyone in attendance will be required to wear a mask while participating in the conference unless actively eating or drinking.  Third, social distancing will be maintained in conference rooms and meeting spaces.  Right now some university scientists are experimenting with the efficacy of masks and three-feet distancing in classrooms, and the results are promising.  If the evidence changes and/or the CDC advice does not change, then we will have chairs 6-feet apart throughout the meeting.  Fourth, we will also ensure that no one is permitted in a session beyond those who can sit in the socially-distanced chairs.  This will be a logistical challenge and we will lose the excitement of people crammed, standing room only, for some of the more populated events; however it is a measure that is necessary to make sure that our meeting is as safe as possible.  

Ultimately, any face-to-face meeting needs to be maximally safe, and that principle will never change.  However, any plans we have now may necessarily have to be adjusted based on conditions in place the closer we are to April 2022.  Whether we go partially face-to-face or fully online will very much depend on CDC recommendations and local conditions.  Right now Alabama has much lower rates of COVID than most other Southern states, and Birmingham itself looks better than other big cities in Alabama, in particular, and the South, in general.  We don’t know the future, and we will adjust as necessary.  


Thanks to all of you who filled out the recent Membership Survey.  The data you provided us and the feedback in the open-ended question is crucial in our thinking and decision-making. SSS 2022, “Invisibility,” promises to be a very special meeting. You can check out the CFP here. I hope to see you there.



Stephanie A. Bohon

SSS President