130+ participants from 16 countries, more than 24 hours of conference sessions over 4 days, a virtual drinks reception, and a showcase of pet dogs and stylish headwear: last week (11-14 May) the iAtlantic project successfully hosted its first annual General Assembly using web conferencing technology in place of an in-person meeting.
Originally planned to take place in Cape Town but rapidly rearranged to an online event in light of the global coronavirus pandemic, the meeting brought together the project team from across the Atlantic, as well as members of its Advisory Board and Science Council, to share progress, discuss results to date, and plan the details of the next phase of work.
With the iAtlantic Fellows (our cohort of early career researchers) leading the agenda on the first day, the meeting programme featured plenary sessions for all iAtlantic work packages, followed by a series of intense breakout sessions and workshops addressing specific topics. The programme retained many elements of the traditional conference, including a virtual exhibition area showcasing some of the H2020 All Atlantic sister projects, and an immensely fun virtual drinks reception which we are pleased to report was (in traditional fashion) embraced enthusiastically by all.
This is apparently the new normal, at least for now – whilst the wonders of web conferencing will never quite replicate the dynamics of an in-person meeting, it did bring a new flavour to proceedings: we all enjoyed the different views that participants shared from their windows on Day 1, and connecting to people in their living rooms, home offices and gardens rather than in the formal atmosphere of a conference hall cast a warmer tone over the meeting. A particular highlight of the meeting was the impromptu appearance of a number of pets, prompting the establishment of the iAtlantic Deep Ocean Genius Scholars group – DOGS. An important benefit of holding the meeting virtually was that it facilitated a much broader attendance than would have been achieved by an in-person meeting – definitely food for thought in the planning of future project meetings.
In conclusion, a highly successful week’s meeting – which was only made possible by the hard work of the team behind the scenes who deserve a big thank you: Mila, Christine, Julia and Laurence. Thanks also to all our speakers and external advisors. We look forward to next year’s event!