The COVID-19 outbreak is affecting our lives and our activities, and it has an impact on our Society as well. Our community is very vibrant in some of the areas heavily affected by the coronavirus, from the Hubei province and the city of Wuhan in P.R. China to northern Italy, from Spain and Catalonia to the United States. We feel close connections to our friends and colleagues who have been personally affected, and we would like to extend our condolences to those who lost their beloved ones, often without the opportunity to say a final goodbye.

This is indeed a challenging time for everyone, and it is a time when the term “community of communities” applies to our Society when we try to help each other whenever possible and certainly work together to avoid disruptions in our collaborative scientific activities. This is the reason why I decided to send you this message, and to provide you with a few updates about GRSS activities that are affected by this new situation.

As you know, 2020 was meant to be a crucial year for GRSS conferences since this year we are introducing regional conferences for the first time. Apparently, this is the way to go, since the coronavirus will reduce the opportunity for long-range travel for quite a while. However, it may allow shorter journeys and smaller conferences later this year. Smaller meetings are also more easily converted to a hybrid format, when some of the attendees cannot travel to the conference location and are forced to provide their presentation remotely. Thanks to these factors and the hard work by our local organizing team, the Mediterranean and Middle East Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (2020.m2garss.org) held in early March in Tunisia was a success. Based on this experience, and hopefully the reduction of the pandemic, we expect that the Indian Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium 2020 to be held in early December (www.ingarss2020.org) will be equally successful. Unfortunately, on the other hand, the 2020 Latin America GRSS and ISPRS Remote Sensing (LAGIRS 2020) conference in late March in Chile had to be cancelled, but we expect LAGIRS 2022 in Brazil to be a success, and to be able to publish the LAGIRS 2020 proceedings in IEEE Xplore.

Our flagship conference, IGARSS 2020, provides an opportunity for our community to gather every year, and since our attendees come from more than 50 countries all over the world, IGARSS is a truly international conference. The conference is scheduled to be held as planned, on July 19-24, 2020 in Waikoloa, Hawaii, USA, but the current travel restrictions that are in place may extend until the dates of the conference, and prevent many of us from traveling to the conference. Since the safety and well being of all conference participants is our top priority, and since the situation is quickly evolving, the Organizing Committee is considering various options for IGARSS 2020 in case alternate arrangements need to be made to protect the health of our global community. With the help of the IEEE Emergency Response Team, we hope to make the necessary decisions by early May.  Please check the conference web site (www.igarss2020.org) frequently, and refrain from making additional travel reservations at this time to avoid incurring non-refundable fees.

GRSS and its leadership are committed to keep the same level of service we provide to our members as in previous years, and even higher if possible. We are focusing all of our efforts to be able to cope with these uncertain times. We ask for your patience and support, but also for your ideas and suggestions. If you think you have an idea to keep alive and increase the sense of “community of communities” within our Society, please do not hesitate to contact me at President-at-grss-ieee.org.

I wish you all the best for good health and productivity during this time.

Prof. Paolo Gamba
2019-2020 IEEE GRSS President
E-mail: president@grss-ieee.org
Twitter: @EOurban