Brave new world of virtual symposia

September 8, 2020 christiane

Only a few months ago we would never have imagined the shape of the world today. We can hardly remember the times pre-COVID, when going to an international conference was considered one of the perks of working in science. Instead, in the COVID-dictated socially distant new world, we reduce our carbon footprint to next-to-nothing and save masses of time by organising our events online and in the virtual world.

FONTE has just delivered a 2-day symposium on Machine Learning, which even included some practical sessions, with speakers joining us from Denmark, UK, France and the USA. No air-miles involved!


Internet connections can still be an issue, so switching off cameras is essential – the downside being that, as one presenter commented: ‘It feels like kind of a cemetery, talking to tombstones with initials on them.’



To make up for this, our 40-ish participants and among them about 30 ESRs from the 5 AiPT-coordinated H2020 training networks FONTE; REAL-NET; MOCCA; WON and POST-DIGITAL, with additions from local students and young researchers, asked engaging questions, filling their own twitter feeds with live commentaries about the symposium, thus proving that a classroom does not have to be a physical location but works equally well as a virtual entity.

Surely this is a sign of things to come. Will we ever again fly half way around the globe to attend conferences?