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Success of online scientific conference confirmed by positive delegate feedback

One-year extension means network will continue to at least the end of 2021

Positive delegate feedback has confirmed the success of an ambitious virtual scientific conference, hosted by The CONNECTED Network, with one delegate affirming the two-week online Zoom event was actually “the most interactive conference that I’ve ever experienced.”

‘Springboard To Impact’ saw 10 days of research presentations, workshops and networking involving researchers from across the globe. It provided delegates with opportunities for consolidation, collaboration, and continuation as the initial three-year period of the CONNECTED Network (based at The University of Bristol, UK, and Newcastle University, UK) drew to a close.

Presentations were made by researchers from all 20 CONNECTED pump-prime funded research projects. Each was followed by a Q and A session, and dedicated time for networking to enable new collaborations to emerge. And for each of the 20 projects an online scientific poster was made available in advance of the event. Attendance at the 75-minute sessions typically ranged from 35 to 50, with an average of 42 delegates per session.

A series of workshops was run around the themes of:

  • research methodology & technical challenges including plant & insect sample preservation, field test diagnostic kits and high throughput sequencing
  • project management
  • action planning
  • agricultural innovation, and
  • communication skills.

Sessions were expertly chaired by Dr Sylvester Dickson Baguma of National Agricultural Research Organisation, Uganda, whose facilitation enabled delegates to engage in lively discussions.

Network Director Prof. Gary Foster (University of Bristol) said: “We are confident the conference set out what it sought to achieve, acting as a ‘springboard’ to develop and deepen the collaborations that have emerged from the three-year CONNECTED Network project.”

He explained that in developing the conference, CONNECTED organisers used the online format – forced due to the global pandemic – to its advantage: “All sessions were recorded with presentations and workshops made available to network members to view online,” he said. “We know work pressures and wifi issues meant many were unable to attend the live sessions.

“Confirming the value of making the videos available, data shows that within just 72 hours of their publication on the CONNECTED Vimeo channel, 93 different users had accessed them.”

Network Co-Director Prof. Neil Boonham (Newcastle University) added: “The feedback has been terrific with many delegates commenting on how the discussions that emerged during the 31 sessions had been highly detailed and hugely beneficial both for those presenting and for those listening.”

He cited some comments made by delegates at the end of the conference:
• “It’s actually a revelation to see how effective this format of conference can be. Definitely setting a model for others to follow!”
• “All the sessions were really exciting and very interactive.”
• “A great people-centred, science driven project.”

To cap the event, in their closing presentation Prof Foster and Prof. Boonham were able to announce news received just two days earlier, that the CONNECTED Network has been granted a one-year extension so its transformative work will continue at least to the end of 2021.