ISF 2019 – General Chair Overview
George Athanasopoulos, General Chair
Aris Syntetos, Program Chair

The 39th International Symposium on Forecasting (ISF2019) was a great success. ISF 2019 took place at Makedonia Palace Hotel in Thessaloniki, Greece, a truly five-star venue in a magnificent location. The attendance was the largest ever recorded with more than 440 attendees, and an international representation from 44 countries over five continents.

The program was stimulating with a distinguished roster of 3 keynote and 3 featured speakers, a diverse set of Sunday workshops, a fascinating two-day summer school and a large number of excellent presentations in the academic and practitioner tracks covering many different areas of academic research and practice, such as water, energy and environment, macroeconomics, neural networks and machine learning, judgment, tourism, finance, supply chain forecasting, forecasting for social good, and demand forecasting among many others.

We were delighted to observe the high level of participation of practitioners, with 1/3 of the participants coming from Industry. Such a mix of academics and practitioners truly reflects the very mission of the IIF which is to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of forecasting. Practitioners were exposed to the latest academic thinking, and academics (like us) left the conference with a bunch of new relevant research questions to pursue.

Last year the IIF initiated IIF sections, interest groups devoted to advancing the theory and practice of specialized domains of forecasting. In this year’s symposium SWEET (IIF Section on Water, Energy, and EnvironmenT) was extremely active with 13 sessions and 43 talks falling under its umbrella. We are thankful to the great work of Tao Hong and his team for putting these together. Also for the first time we had the IIF ECR (Early Career Researchers) network in action. Over 70 ECRs attended the meet and greet welcome reception, and the two panel sessions organized by the network with the help of the conference and program chairs. We are thankful to the ECR team of Shari De Baets, Anna Sroginis and Michał Chojnowski. We encourage all IIF members to participate in the initiative of Sections. This is a great opportunity for the IIF members to help shape the program of future symposiums and to build a home for their fellow forecasters. Proposals to establish sections should be submitted to Pam Stroud and Tao Hong.

The program continued in the format introduced in 2017 with a full day on Monday, half day on Tuesday followed by the Gala event, and a full day on Wednesday concluding with the closing ceremony which featured an excellent panel discussion on “Advancing forecasting research and practice” followed by other important formalities. This new format has worked very well with close to 300 attendees being present in the very final session.

It is also the 3rd symposium in a row that a fully electronic program was provided through the whova app making it easy to make announcements, provide updates, etc., and also importantly saving the environment. The feedback was extremely positive and it seems that the app has now been fully embraced with more than 95% of the attendees having downloaded it and using it throughout the symposium.

The social program this year was also an amazing success. The Gala event combined a guided tour of the archeological museum of Thessaloniki, followed by dinner at the Polis Convention Center. A record breaking 378 people attended. The presentation of music, instruments and dances from around Greece was followed by the longest line ever of forecasters dancing Zorba. The party and dancing continued until well past midnight. On Thursday 111 people, attended the post-conference tour at Meteora. We also had partner’s tours during the conference which were all well attended.

The support of our sponsors and exhibitors is always key to the success of the symposium, especially in assisting with keeping costs low for our attendees such as the Gala event but also for supporting new initiatives such as the welcome event for the ECR Network.

We are indebted to (gold sponsor) Monash University and in particular to the Monash Business School, (practitioner track sponsor) Google, (invited practitioner sponsor) Microsoft, along with (premium sponsors) Elsevier, Amazon, RiskLabs Australia, EViews and (contributing sponsors) University of Macedonia, International Association of Applied Econometrics, Uber, Timberlake Consultants, Forecast Pro, Wessex, Erasmus School of Economics, Cardiff Business School, SAS and YaleBooks.

Save the date! ISF 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, July 5-8th!

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