Re: IETF 107 Vancouver In-Person Meeting Cancelled

"Theodore Y. Ts'o" <> Tue, 10 March 2020 21:17 UTC

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Date: Tue, 10 Mar 2020 17:17:47 -0400
From: "Theodore Y. Ts'o" <>
To: Brian E Carpenter <>
Cc: "Salz, Rich" <>, Alissa Cooper <>, "" <>
Subject: Re: IETF 107 Vancouver In-Person Meeting Cancelled
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On Wed, Mar 11, 2020 at 08:59:57AM +1300, Brian E Carpenter wrote:
> You may not share my perception, which is that most of the company
> travel bans that have emerged in the last few weeks are just the
> standard reaction by accounting departments to a business downturn,
> and nothing directly to do with health risks. And the IESG has
> reacted to the consequences of those travel bans for the practical
> aspects of the meeting, again nothing directly to do with health
> risks.

FWIW, there is a pretty strong scientific argument for cancelling
conferences.  See these two YouTube vidoes by Prof. Marcel Salathé
from EPFL in Switzerland, the first was recorded on Feb. 26th[1], and
the second recorded on March 8th[2].


Both are very much worth watching in their entirety, but the TL;DW
summary is that there have been enough cases of "community
transmission" that containment is no longer a practical strategy, and
so we need to move on to mitigation; see the slide at 51:07 in [1].
And at the slide starting at about 57:51, he argues that the focus
should be on slowing down the rate of infection to minimize the burden
on the health care systems, and to buy time for develop and test new
drugs and vaccines (and it will be 12-18 months for vaccines to become
available).  The reason for doing this can be found at the slide at
58:46; by performing interventions like cancelling major conferences
and events, it reduces the peak demand on the health care systems, by
spreading out when the cases appear.

Of course there is a political dimention to governments forbidding
people from travelling, ala what China and now Italy has done.  For
countries which have a strong tradition of civil rights, restricting
travel goes against the grain.  And of course, politicians don't want
to instill panic, which also means they are going to shy away from
more drastic solutions.

However, from a epidemiological perspective, having individuals and
organizations voluntarily deciding to cancel events and making
decisions not to travel may ultimately be something that makes a lot
of sense from a scientific perspective, and is not merely just "fear"
and "panic".


						- Ted