SPLASH 2021 Retrospective: Organizing a Premier PL Conference in Hybrid

Hybrid conferences can be the future; it enables inclusivity in a great deal from around the globe, which could not be possible for many students and researchers for various reasons.

Hybrid table at SPLASH 2021 in Chicago

I served as an Accessibility Chair in the organizing committee of the SPLASH conference in 2020. SPLASH is the premier conference on the applications of programming languages- at the intersection of programming languages and software engineering. It hosted the OOPSLA, ECOOP, and other co-located events. Because of the pandemic, SPLASH held in 2020 into a virtual setting. I facilitated the audio-video (AV) accessibility support for the authors and audiences. Especially, I enabled closed-captions for all the talks in the conference for their talks for better accessibility. I provided instructions and tutorials to all the authors for creation of closed captions of their talks. Despite several challenges of correction and synchronization, I was able to provide accessibility support to the conference.

The success of virtualization of SPLASH 2020 was recognized and appreciated by the organizers, and in the following year I served as the Accessibility Chair in SPLASH 2021 as well. This time SPLASH 2021 was hybrid with close to three hundred in-person participation in Chicago and over four hundred virtual attendees. I observed a great positivity and inclusive culture in the conference which was possible through an easy-to-access medium of operation and technical support. The hybrid conference also showed the benefits of inclusivity in a great deal. It showed that even after pandemic, if we have a hybrid setting in such conferences, a lot more people can join and interact internationally, which is often very limited from many underrepresented country. For example, a student from India could not have traveled to Chicago because of several barriers like visa, travel-cost, etc. However, these people are a big part of the community in terms of publications and representation. The hybrid event gives almost a seamless experience for their participation. Albeit a lot to improve for the hybridization, we wrote a SIGPLAN blog on the hybrid conference organization in 2021.

Me along with Jonathan Aldrich, Steve Blackburn, Benjamin Chung, Youyou Cong, Alex Potanin, Hridesh Rajan, and Talia Ringer, shared our experience in this SIGPLAN blog.