Innovations for the @ESA_org #ESA2020 annual meeting #FlattenTheCurve #ecology #openscience

The annual meetings of the Ecological Society of America are brilliant. These conventions provide the opportunity to network, collaborate, communicate, connect early-career researchers with new collaborators, and most importantly co-learn and connect as a community. We are scientists, citizens, educators, and a group that can affect social good. The annual meeting this year is in Salt Lake City, Utah entitled ‘Harnessing the ecological data revolution’. However, as citizens, we also have a moral responsibility to #flattenthecurve of a pandemic. In doing so, there is uncertainty on the duration of its spread (and mitigation strategies proposed) with predictions ranging from 6 weeks to many months. We have an opportunity to do social good. Even more importantly, we have an incentive to experiment. After all, we are scientists, and all large meetings certainly come with benefits but also challenges. Navigating a large convention (an app helps), rushing between talks, choosing between concurrent sessions, high relative carbon footprint and other costs of attendance, and now there is a potential moral imperative to consider alternatives. The theme of the meeting this year is also an ideal opportunity to experiment with alternatives. I propose that we test a new way to meet this year. We can even collect data from all participants on the efficacy of the strategies tested, and thus augment and improve future meetings that can reuse some of these approaches whether face-to-face or distributed. A remote meeting with reduced registration costs for instance can provide the following benefits:
a. protect the society from cancellations and loss of entire fees,
b. increase accessibility to those that could not attend because of net costs or other reasons, and
c. broaden our reach outside our community with some components of meeting being made fully accessible.

Innovations

iteminnovationdescription
1virtual poster sessionsThe Entomological Society of America already does this
2pre-recorded short talksReduce all talks to 20 slides, 6 minutes, pre-recorded, and post to an ESA2020 YouTube Channel. Allow individuals to post whatever content they are comfortable providing (deck only, deck with audio or notes, deck with video etc).
3define a common slide deck repositoryF1000, Figshare, and others provide a DOI for items. Benefits include citable objects, use common tags, and set rules for session number in title to enhance discoverability.
4each session co-authors a preprintIdentify two leads per contributed oral session/symposium, and all presenters co-author a short pre-print for session and publish to EcoEvoRxiv
5provide extemporaneous virtual meetingsIt is fantastic to bump into people at meetings. Provide a tool in some format and define mingling times. Every meeting should have this whether in-person or remote. Health, child care, accessibility, costs of food, social pressures to meet in bars or different contexts etc can be addressed with this tool. We can be more inclusive.
6provide a code of conductThis needs to be provided for every meeting in every context. Develop one for this meeting, and we can co-learn as a community have to better respect and enable representation and diversity. Consider a volunteer promote to monitor online discussion and support positive dialogue at all times.
7stream live workshopsUse Zoom, Twitch, or any platform to enable and stream live coding, writing, training, and discovery events.
8capitalize on social media (appropriately)Use social media more effectively. Pre-designate tags, run a photo contest on Instagram from your study work that you present, consider a code snippet sharing event, run a cartoon or outreach contest.
9hackathons or kagglesThis meeting is about the data revolution. Define and plan a kaggle or two and a few hackathons. We can collaborate and make the presentation process less one-way and fixed and much more interactive.
10publish data nowThe ESA can use this meeting as a means to advance the revolution by providing incentives to provide whatever scientific products individuals are able to provide (data, data snippets, code, workflows, syntheses, etc) at their points in career, degree, or research process.

Tips for student reports using online conferencing tools

Video and web conferencing tools will be used for upcoming undergraduate and graduate student progress reports at various institutions beginning this week. With my collaborators, graduate students will be using Zoom specifically to run their annual progress reports that comprise a 12-15 minute presentation followed by discussion and questions. Undergraduate thesis researchers will also present their thesis research and field questions to complete their course requirements. Previously, I have tried to best understand how to use these tools including recordings to present mini-conference talks, but the goal was primarily rapid, informal communication with limited needed for dialogue. Consequently, I have been considering how to best the support the team in the next few weeks through more effective use of video and web conferencing. Through trial-and-error this previous week, here are some ideas to consider if you are about to employ similar tools.

Tips

  1. Set up the conferencing session with a buffer of at least 15 additional minutes.
  2. Log in early, and test audio and video. I prefer headphones with mic to avoid reverberated sound. The presenter should also test turning on and off screen sharing.
  3. Check the settings when you set up the meeting. Confirm that you want participants to be able to log in muted and/or with video and in advance of the host. I choose muted entry and allow log in before host just in case this person is late.
  4. Designate a host for a meeting. With Zoom, only the host can record, and this can be handy (at least for the saved chat if not video).
  5. Discuss with all participants the rules of conduct briefly for the meeting (including whether recorded or not), and the host should introduce each participant in the conference with a brief hello or response from each to ensure everyone is seen or heard (and also that the settings worked).
  6. Mute yourself when not speaking.
  7. Consider turning off video or at least discuss because this can be very distracting to the presenters. These is also the remote possibility that this can improve sound quality (apparently participants tolerate poor to no video but not poor audio in meetings).
  8. Use the chat. Host should monitor it throughout presentations by students in case someone needs to indicate if they have a problem with the connection but do not want to interrupt the speaker.
  9. Provide an informal, shortened practice session for students that you host and monitor in advance of the formal process. This is particularly important if the student is being graded.
  10. Test a back-up plan.