Summer has ended and with it, so has the time that is known as conference season to scientists. Professors and their staff are free of their teaching duties during summer, so there is plenty of time to travel the world, learn what progress the community has made, and present our work. If you ask me, this is one of the best things about being a scientist. This year though, all the big conferences were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Nevertheless, last week, I received an invitation to join an online symposium, organized by my graduate school. Hats off to people who try to make the best out of a difficult time, but can an online event compare to a real-life meeting?
I spent my lunch breaks laying at the pool, under the sun of southern China, when I was attending my first conference.
I have been very spoiled during my work for WUR. I spent my lunch breaks laying at the pool, under the sun of southern China, when I was attending my first conference. I went to Barcelona, Paris, and Leeds, and enjoyed visiting these interesting cities, but I also enjoyed the interactions with other scientists that I met there. I was always so excited when I saw the famous professors passing by and actually being able to speak to them.
These conversations are a key aspect of a conference that cannot be met by an online session. Collaborations, guest visits, the next career steps, are all discussed in the casual atmosphere of scientific meetings. Also, the more in-depth discussions often occur after a presentation, when scientists hang out and eat cookies. I doubt that this can be met during an online session.
At least, young PhD students, who are encouraged to present at the upcoming event, have an opportunity to receive feedback on their work. We got used to the Zoom meeting presentations within my research group, why should this not be possible on a bigger scale?
We have no choice but to deal with the current situation, and I salute those who try to create something positive in it. Though I think many scientists look forward to a normal conference season that will hopefully be possible next year.
Katrin Heidemeyer kwam in 2014 naar Wageningen voor haar master. Zij is nu bezig met promotieonderzoek bij Biochemie. Katrin komt oorspronkelijk uit Duitsland.