The American Institute of Physics recently released a report, “The Future of Association Convening: Envisioning for The Sciences (FACETS),” with many ideas on how scientific conferences can become more effective.

“Last year, AIP released a report assessing the impact of the pandemic on the physical sciences. That report, ‘Peril and Promise: Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Physical Sciences,’ concluded the whole scientific community was being impacted negatively by the inability to fully engage professionally, including attending scientific meetings and conferences,” Michael Moloney, AIP’s CEO, said. “But the report also noted virtual conferences can provide opportunities to reach nontraditional populations, which could be a long-term boon to increasing the diversity of physical sciences talent. We wanted to explore the potential of the new and emerging platforms for society convening in a deeper dive and convened the FACETS panel.” 

The FACETS report envisions a greater exchange of scientific discoveries and advancements being achieved in a number of ways:

  • moving from the traditional lecture format to a more active discourse and dialogue using digital tools such as text, audio, and video chat to facilitate two-way communication between presenters and attendees;
  • as online scientific events encourage greater diversity of attendees – particularly global participation – events can be  more inclusive and offer greater accessibility;
  • opportunities abound for scientific and professional societies to collaborate more with other societies as well as industry, academia, sponsors, and exhibitors; and,
  • exhibitors can engage with participants outside of the exhibit hall in networking events and in one-on-one meetings.

In conclusion, the paper states: “The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the scientific community to break out of our molds and provided us opportunities in the virtual-conference arena to solve problems in fresh ways. But given the immediate need to go virtual with our conferences, there was little time to think creatively. Now that the scientific community has gained experience with new ways of convening, we can build on this great potential for our future, forging new ways to share science and build community in ways that are accessible, equitable, and grounded in excellence.”