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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 117-118

The transition of academic meetings in 2020

Department of Ophthalmology, Tung Wah Eastern Hospital, Hong Kong, China

Date of Submission03-Jan-2021
Date of Decision01-Feb-2021
Date of Acceptance01-Feb-2021
Date of Web Publication26-Mar-2021

Correspondence Address:
Sunny Chi Lik Au
9/F, MO office, Lo Ka Chow Memorial Ophthalmic Centre, Tung Wah Eastern Hospital, 19 Eastern Hospital Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/crst.crst_1_21

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How to cite this article:
Au SC. The transition of academic meetings in 2020. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2021;4:117-8

How to cite this URL:
Au SC. The transition of academic meetings in 2020. Cancer Res Stat Treat [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Apr 23];4:117-8. Available from: https://www.crstonline.com/text.asp?2021/4/1/117/312057

The coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic[1] severely impaired the academic conferences in 2020, leading to the cancellation of majority of them.[2] Almost all signature meetings were conducted virtually.[3] The pandemic gave us an opportunity to reflect on the purpose and significance of academic conferences and the pros and cons of virtual conferences and webinars. It also helped us to understand how we could utilize the opportunities presented to us by these virtual conferences.[4]

  Traditional Conferences Top

Conferences organized by the national and international academic bodies are mainly focused on the clinical and basic research. While some are dedicated to specific subspecialties in the field, others involve general practices or include all subspecialties. By attracting a large audience, organizers not only improve their reputation but also raise funds for academic groups and universities.

Conferences provide knowledge about certain aspects that cannot be attained by studying published literature alone. Thus, they offer delegates an opportunity to learn and enrich their knowledge. Besides, the delegates can visit various exhibition booths, inquire about new products and equipment, and even request special offers on purchases. Attending a congress may be expensive taking into account the registration fee, travel, accommodation, living, entertainment, and other expenses, but many of these expenses are tax deductible. Nevertheless, it may not be affordable, especially for young residents or those from developing countries. Practitioners from some countries could even face difficulties in obtaining a visa. Conferences usually take few days to even a week of time; attendees have to take some days off of work, which may reduce their productivity and income, and sometimes disrupt the care of their patients. Therefore, the dates and venues for important meetings are usually announced one to several years in advance, so practitioners can plan well ahead.

Jetlag could also be a big concern with international flight travels, but the participants can catch up with their old friends/colleagues and make new contacts. They can enjoy the new culture, visit places of tourist attraction, and get a taste of the local delicacies. Last but not the least, awards ceremonies, charity events, and cultural performances are all exciting parts of any conference.

Getting exposure to relevant news and online resources, speakers boost their reputation by participating in scientific conferences, and sharing their experiences and knowledge. In addition, the speakers can improve their research and presentations based on the audience feedback. These events may catalyze international cooperation and the organization of new conferences.

  The Rise of Webinars and Virtual Conferences Top

We have become used to the shortcomings of traditional conferences since taking our first steps in the medical field. However, COVID-19 has greatly changed all aspects of our lives, including scientific gatherings. Now, we receive marketing e-mails and social media notifications for multiple webinars every week. Some of these events are national, while some are international and cover various topics. Since all regular activities have been halted, we can stay at home and listen to the speakers while lying on the sofa and eating a snack. Participants are able to walk through the conference hall like avatars, visit different rooms, and identify others through their faces and name badges. In the registration form, participants can state their areas of interest. Then, potential attendees are invited to an optional group meeting based on their interests. Different conversation methods are available. Participants can send text messages to each other, use voice notes, and even communicate in real time through phone or video calls. Voice and video communications are more social, but they are bound to be more time-consuming than asynchronous communications.

Despite all the modern features of virtual conferences, we are tired of the overexposure to these competing webinars, most of which are not organized by the national or international community. International cooperation during the webinars and follow-up invitations to upcoming webinars have all given birth to more and more webinars. They cover overlapping topics and are usually scheduled in the evenings and on the weekends. The rise in the number of webinars that are not organized by experienced teams or knowledgeable speakers has posed technical problems, as the quality of scientific content cannot be monitored as in a traditional real-time conference. As currently there is no system to evaluate and score these webinars, most of them do not have a continuing medical education (CME) score.

  Key to Success in The Virtual Academic Era Top

Technicians working in real time are necessary, especially in the big, international conferences. There should be rules and regulations to protect the copyrights and novel ideas presented in the virtual meetings. Participants should be made aware of the various rules and regulations and the repercussions of their violation. Safe platforms should be created to prevent hijacking and cyberattacks. A well-organized plan with rich content and diverse themes is crucial to attract delegates. Good exhibitions, side events, and entertainment platforms can further encourage the delegates to participate. Several companies are emerging that help to plan and organize virtual meetings on national and international scales in the new COVID-19 era.

Like traditional meetings, virtual meetings require planning and real-time logistics at the backend. Therefore, they must be managed by multidisciplinary organizational committees, to take care of the science, logistics, and finances. As is done in traditional conferences, multiple sessions can run in parallel. However, meticulous planning is needed to ensure that a delegate does not appear in more than one place at a time. It is best for delegates to adopt and live in the time zone where the meeting is held to participate in the on-site interactions. Speakers may be asked to conduct a short interactive quiz, which can serve as an attention assessment tool for delegates during the meeting. The approved CME score can be issued based on the time spent on each activity and/or based on the representative's response to the quiz.

  Conclusion Top

Technology is evolving each day. In future, meetings may be conducted in the real, virtual, or both the forms. However, the current situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic may accelerate the transition to virtual and hybrid meetings. The pandemic can propel a shift in the academic interactions. With time, we can estimate the effectiveness of these meetings and find the best way to overcome all the obstacles to organizing and running virtual and hybrid meetings.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Pande P, Sharma P, Goyal D, Kulkarni T, Rane S, Mahajan A. COVID-19: A review of the ongoing pandemic. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2020;3:221-32.  Back to cited text no. 1
  [Full text]  
Weissgerber T, Bediako Y, de Winde CM, Ebrahimi H, Fernández-Chiappe F, Ilangovan V, et al. Mitigating the impact of conference and travel cancellations on researchers' futures. Elife 2020;9:e57032.  Back to cited text no. 2
Speirs V. Reflections on the upsurge of virtual cancer conferences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Br J Cancer. 2020;123:698-9.  Back to cited text no. 3
Rubinger L, Gazendam A, Ekhtiari S, Nucci N, Payne A, Johal H, et al. Maximizing virtual meetings and conferences: A review of best practices. Int Orthop 2020;44:1461-6.  Back to cited text no. 4


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