Statement sent by IAMCR Executive Board and the Local Organizing Committee in Madrid on May 20, 2019 to all participants and authors, about the conference registration processes
IAMCR’s Executive Board (EB) and the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) express their appreciation for the overwhelming interest in IAMCR/Madrid 2019. This year’s conference is turning out to be an “extreme weather event” – in other words, an exceptional and unique situation that has consistently failed to match our expectations that were based on data and trends that have marked the past ten years of IAMCR conferences.
We especially want to thank you for your patience related to the capacity of the venue. We have been working for several days in search of alternatives, with the cooperation and kindness of many people. However, we are sorry to report that while we may be able to receive 20 or 30 more participants, registration for the conference cannot be expanded further for reasons that are explained in detail below.
Summary of the current situation
Registrations were closed before midnight on May 6 to avoid exceeding the capacity. We had already reached 1,600 registrations, with others in process. Since then, a waiting list was been maintained by IAMCR’s Executive Secretariat and Complutense University. We currently have approximately 1,720 registered participants.
The criteria that were used to select people from the waiting list, established by the Executive Board and approved by the LOC, gave priority to:
In addition to the 1,720 currently registered, 30 or 40 people have been selected, based on the above criteria, and have been given a limited amount of time to register. As spaces become available, others may be invited to register, but it is unlikely that they will amount to more than a handful.
Explanation of participation calculations
There were over 3,600 abstracts submitted to IAMCR 2019, the highest number in the association’s history. This was the first indicator that we were dealing with the equivalent of an extreme weather event. The Sections and Working Group heads conducted a rigorous evaluation and still ended up inviting some 2,100 papers to be presented. In a normal year, 75 - 80% of invited papers are eventually, presented: the others are withdrawn as their authors fail to obtain funding, have scheduling issues, or face other obstacles. Contrary to our expectations, almost 90% confirmed that they would present their papers. Once again, this was not in line with expectations we would have for a “normal” IAMCR conference. The third factor that contributed to our extreme weather event is that 2019 features both an exceptional number of papers with multiple authors, and an exceptional number of 2nd, 3rd and even 4th authors who want to participate. Our planning in a normal year, when the number of participants is not limited, is focused on papers, not participants. We need to know that a certain number of papers can be presented within the time and space available. How many people can be seated in a plenary session or provided with coffee and lunch is not a concern because we have always been able to fit in a few more. In Madrid, we cannot fit a few more.
In other words, the ratio of people who generally drop out, cancel their participation, or do not register, which we usually take into consideration based on data from previous years, is much lower than in the past. At the same time, the number of participants per paper is higher than in the past. In hindsight, we should have set the acceptance rate lower, but we did not anticipate these developments.
The popularity of the conference is not only the attraction of the city, the dates, and the international accessibility to Spain. We also focused on offering a relatively low registration fee, which is always the aim of Conference Organizing Committees. The choice of other conference venues in Madrid, which may have been able to expand their capacity, would have substantially increased registration fees.
Our policies and practices in estimating conference participation can always be improved, and they have been improving over the past years as we have gathered data that has allowed us to plan better, to budget better, to set fees better. However, we have not been planning, preparing, and gathering data for exceptional, "extreme weather" years such as this one.
Explanation of Capacity
As noted above, the capacity has been expanded beyond the original proposal, from 1,500 to 1,750. We appreciate the ideas that have been offered to expand the capacity further, however, there are several reasons this is not possible.
First, there are legal and security limitations. In Spain, by the Law of State Contracts, which affects all public universities, any contract of more than 15,000 euros requires specific legal and financial procedures, including an important bond when it exceeds 40,000 euros. Thus, renting additional marquees or rooms cannot be done on short notice. To increase capacity to 1,750 participants, the LOC has already arranged an outside auditorium that will be installed in the university gardens and will be used during the morning sessions, as the hot weather in Madrid in summer will prevent its use in the afternoon.
Arrangements for catering (costed at approximately 163,000 euros) were made in February and cannot be changed at this time, considering the aforementioned legal limitations to large contracts. We were able to increase the numbers from 1,500 to 1,750 because of a discount that the LOC received.
We still should be pleased with the growth of the Association, the interest in the issues raised by the Madrid organizers, the number of participating countries (86) and, notably, the strong presence of students (almost 30%), which bodes well for the sustainability of media and communication research.
We are all disappointed and upset by the inability to expand the conference participation and admit our error in thinking that Madrid would be a site like any other. We ask for your understanding and especially your appreciation of our dedication to inclusive and diverse conferences. There are challenges in organizing truly international conferences for organizations such as IAMCR and we hope that you appreciate the efforts dedicated to the upcoming event by many people.
Thanks especially to the Academic Committee (more than twenty colleagues from public and private universities in Madrid and Valladolid), as well as the hard-working Section and Working Group Heads.
Madrid 2019 Local Organizing Committee
President: Jorge Clemente Mediavilla, Dean of the School of Communication
Director: Loreto Corredoira
Academic Committee Chair: Mª José Canel
Assistant Dean for Institutional Relations: José Antonio Ruiz San Román
Technical Secretariat Coordinator: Sabela Serrano
Director of Communication: Elisa Brey
IAMCR Executive Board
Elske van der Fliert
Aimée Vega Montiel