The American Astronomical Society (AAS) is making the most of online opportunities during its 237th meeting, which will take place entirely this week due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The self-proclaimed Super Bowl of Astronomy, which runs through Friday (January 15th), typically covers a wide range of topics and this year’s edition will be no different, although it will be entirely online. The the full program is available here. Some hot topics that participants can expect include fast radio bursts, dark matter, sky research, gravitational waves, and trying to understand why different teams have different measurements to calculate the expansion of the universe, among others.
The AAS already included iPosters (PowerPoint-like posters with combinations of text, images, video, and audio) in its personal meetings, along with brief scientific discussions before the pandemic erupted last March. The public is testing these online meeting formats with the June 2020 meeting, which was quickly moved online just weeks before the start as quarantine restrictions expanded in the United States.
Full coverage: The 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in 2021
Attendees can expect even more online adaptations for AAS 237, spokesman Rick Fienberg told Space.com in an email interview.
“For AAS 237, we’re adding Turbo Talks, 2-minute introductory videos by authors to get attention and stimulate interest in their iPosters,” he said. Other changes participants can expect include Slack channels during conversations so people can “kibbut,” Fienberg said, and spreading the meeting to five days instead of four to reduce the time participants need to spend on the computer every day.
The virtual showroom will be very different from what visitors saw in June. This time, AAS will use a meeting environment called vFairs, which allows sponsors and exhibitors to create custom-made virtual booths, Fienberg said.
“They can publish brochures and other downloads, have cabin staff at certain times of the day to interact with one-on-one or small group attendees, and offer webinars to get to know a larger audience. present with their products and services, “he said.
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The ultimate goal is to attract more visitors to the virtual showroom, reflecting the “coffee break” and “cocktail hour” experience one usually gets by wandering the gym during a face-to-face meeting, he added.
“At our first virtual meeting in June, exhibitors did not receive the traffic they are used to, for obvious reasons,” Fienberg said. “So for January, we spent some time every day when the only activity was in the showroom, and we successfully encouraged almost all of our exhibitors to offer webinars that are listed in the program along with everything else so you don’t get lost in the stirring. “
Participating students can also look forward to the first-of-its-kind virtual postgraduate school and student research fair, which will allow students to share CVs, text and video chat meetings and learn more about participating institutions – all without the need for payment. for a personal trip. People at all stages of their careers can also benefit from various social media events, such as trivia, high-speed networking and virtual carrion hunting.
Looking back on the June meeting, Fienberg said AAS staff “really had to fight” to transfer all activities online, including assembling infrastructure, finding suppliers and attracting members and other stakeholders for the trip. The hard work paid off as about 1,400 people attended the virtual activities – twice the expected attendance – AAS thought they would see each other in person in Madison, Wisconsin.
Fienberg said the AAS listened closely to participants’ feedback in June to prepare for January; another change they are making includes two-day seminars that were not proposed in June. The winter meeting usually has more attendance than the summer one, with more sessions and activities.
“With five days of research sessions and two slots a day for press conferences, I’ve scheduled 10 briefings instead of my usual eight, so I have 25% more presenters to communicate with – plus their institutional public information officers,” Fienberg said. “All of us involved in planning and running the meeting are really quite exhausted, but this is also true for face-to-face meetings. What we learned during these two meetings is that a virtual meeting involves as much work as it does. internal – Article One. “
Fienberg added that some of those present had expressed concern about the high registration fees for the virtual meeting, but noted that the infrastructure was not free. Although venues and catering establishments are not required for online conferences, AAS still works with providers and software to provide the best possible experience. “It’s a fairly even trade,” he said of the AAS price tag.
With the vaccine slowly spreading to the United States and other countries, the AAS is thinking ahead when face-to-face meetings will be possible again in the coming months. Even before the pandemic broke out, members were already seeking virtual options due to costs and environmental issues related to activities such as flying, Fienberg said. Journalists have been able to attend virtual press conferences for many years, and Fienberg said the pandemic has prompted even more types of participants to consider the online option.
“I think it is inevitable that the meeting of the future will be hybrid,” he said. “We just need to figure out how to make it work financially.”
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