In this section, we would like to take the opportunity to explain the benefits of holding this conference in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
Location: Ecuador is close to North America, and also very accessible from all parts of South America, where there is an ever-growing astronomical community. The location is slightly further from Europe than other locations, however it is still very accessible – there are flights to Quito that last less than 15 hours from London for example (including a stop), and just 12 hours from Amsterdam for example (direct), and then it is just a short hop to the Galapagos.
Accessibility: one part of “accessibility” is in terms of location and how to get here, and is mentioned above, and the other part of “accessibility” is the financial aspect. We think that holding the conference in the Galapagos actually makes the conference very accessible financially. For some people it might mean a pricier flight, but the cost of food and accommodation in the Galapagos is relatively cheap compared to the majority of locations in the USA and Europe, and so overall the trip should cost less overall after taking all expenses into account. We have also kept the conference fee as low as possible to make the conference more accessible (by organizing everything ourselves, and negotiating the free use of various facilities), which is especially important for PhD students and Post-Docs who might have a lower budget, and there is a reduced registration fee for PhD students, which is entirely waived if they are accepted for a talk. We have organized this conference in the low-season in Galapagos to reduce costs further, and to give a rough idea of costs, one can easily find a good hotel for $80-100 a night, and basic hostels can be $20-30 a night.
How the location supports the science output of the conference: How can the location support the science output of the conference? For a successful conference we don’t need to have 10 modern telescopes on site, we don’t need a supercomputer nearby, what we need is a good lecture hall/auditorium with the correct facilities – which of course we have in the Galapagos. The importance of the location is that it attracts as many people as possible as we believe that the more people that attend, the more successful the conference will be. The location itself does not directly support the success of the conference, in fact it is the choice of topics for the conference and the ability of the place to attract as many people as possible which leads to the success of the event. Finally, we chose the Galapagos Islands as the location and not Quito, the capital of Ecuador, as from our experience with past conferences, the Galapagos has been a more successful conference location the Quito (mainly due to the reason above in terms of attracting the largest number of participants).
Benefit to Ecuador and the wider region: There aren’t that many international conferences in Ecuador and the wider region – this is another reason to hold a conference in this region. There is a growing astronomical community in Ecuador, and in the wider region (Latin America and the Caribbean) and the benefit that a conference like this brings to Ecuador is huge. The publicity in the science community is a direct benefit, but also there is the benefit of stimulating science in the region – be that stimulating current researchers, or inspiring younger scientists to continue their studies, so that they too one day can contribute to science and partake in a conference like this one. In fact, 15 years ago there was next to no astronomical community in Ecuador, however now there is a significant astronomical community here – this is largely thanks to the previous conferences (such as IAU 313, one of the three principal IAU symposiums of 2014) that we have held in Ecuador.