Virtual Conferences: How will conferencing change after COVID?

Many of us were getting ready for spring conference season when COVID hit. Now, however, we need to look to the future of conferencing and consider what will change when it comes to conferencing post COVID.

Will anything Change?

My answer to this… absolutely not. I think people will be so anxious to get outside they will sprint to the nearest opportunity to leave the lab. Conferencing is the most essential opportunity for trainees to showcase their research and meet with potential advisers. The scientific community will continue to conference regularly after COVID and I do not think much will change in the end. However, we have to consider that our travel internationally might be hindered for the next 2-5 years. So how do we respond to this?

Virtual Reality Conferences?

With virtual reality starting to take flight we have to entertain the option of hosting virtual conferences. Imagine waking up from home, eating your Wheaties, and then putting on your VR glasses to transport yourself to EB2022? Its not very different from what we are currently doing in this period of virtual meetings. Sitting in on a talk would be easy, but what about poster sessions? It is hard to hop posters via zoom, but a virtual conference hall could solve this problem. All of this technology exists and we have the ability to generate this kind of platform.

A recent article in Nature discussed how conference platforms have been adapting since COVID. This article does an excellent job discussing how the lack of intimacy that comes with this kind of platform can remove the purpose of conferences. I agree. Physical face-to-face contact goes so much further than anything technology can offer. A VR conference would completely remove that intimate interaction and make interactions awkward. Can you imagine walking up to an animated version of me and listen to me talk about colorectal cancer in mice…?

VR conferences are a great way to keep us rolling as a scientific community as we crawl out of this crisis. However, we cannot ignore the most essential feature that makes us human, and that is the ability to intimately interact with one another. Lets do what we can for now but not compromise our values when it comes to returning back to normal. We cannot get too comfortable conferencing from home that we forget why we do this in the beginning.

Have you attended any virtual conferences since COVID? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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The ASIP is hosting another free virtual hangout for trainee and junior members June 11th at 4P.M. EST. The goal of this virtual hangout is to bring scientists together to share their stories about life during COVID and the obstacles they have had to overcome. We are hosting another because our first session was a great success. If you are interested please register by clicking the link below:


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