The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to dramatically impact daily life across the globe, though the efficacy of vaccines and public health measures has allowed many to resume “normal” activities (although often in modified form) in the past few months. In the academic research world, one aspect that has yet to return on a large scale is the in-person conference. Most of these meetings quickly transitioned to virtual formats early in the pandemic, but—as was demonstrated recently by the Society for Neuroscience’s hybrid-turned-virtual-only experience—the re-transition back to in-person meetings is not straightforward.
In this new blog series, the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) is aiming for total transparency regarding the 2022 Annual Meeting. While many details are being worked out and the need for flexibility remains high, the conference is currently being planned as an in-person meeting in June in Glasgow, Scotland. There will also be virtual components to the conference to complement the physical meeting, although the details are yet to be determined.
Of course, OHBM is not alone in this endeavor: other related societies are making complex decisions about 2022 conferences, and sharing information across societies can help each organization make the best plans for its members. As such, we are excited to kick off the OHBM2022 Series with a Neurosalience podcast episode featuring host Peter Bandettini discussing the 2022 conference planning process with leaders of OHBM, the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, and the Cognitive Neuroscience Society.
In upcoming installments of the OHBM2022 Series, we will describe the efforts of the new Virtual Integration Task Force, the public health precautions required for an in-person conference, financial and program planning decisions, and much more. We want our members to know the latest planning information for the 2022 Annual Meeting, so we hope you enjoy this series, starting with a fantastic podcast discussion between society leaders!
The International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM), the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM), and the Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS) are three of the most prominent organizations in the human imaging and cognitive neuroscience communities. All these societies are planning in-person meetings for the spring and early summer of 2022: CNS will be from April 23–26 in San Francisco, ISMRM will be from May 7–12 in London, and OHBM will be from June 19–23 in Glasgow.
Here, the three current chairs of each organization discuss the opportunities and challenges in putting together a conference in 2022. While there are some differences in strategies used by each society, there is a strong convergence in the approaches. All the meetings will have a virtual component, but the precise logistics for how to best simultaneously put on the virtual and in-person meeting, all agreed, are tricky and still being ironed out. Each of the meeting directors understand the need to maintain a high quality in-person and virtual component. Few attendees would want to fly out to a meeting and then listen to predominantly pre-recorded talks, so the directors are encouraging as much as possible for presenters to be in-person and then to commit as much as possible to being physically at the meeting. Of course, given the fluid COVID-19 landscape, such virtual and in-person hybrid presentations are unavoidable. Either way, real time Q&A sessions, both virtual and in-person will be available.
We start the discussion by going over how these societies had to quickly pivot then scramble once COVID hit, and then we talked about the challenges and lessons learned from this experience. We discuss what they anticipate and look forward to for the meetings in the spring, as well as some of the benefits that have come out of this deeply challenging time. Even after COVID is a distant memory, a virtual component (both streaming in-person presentations as well as virtual presentations to in-person attendees) is very likely here to stay, as the benefits associated with a wider inclusivity, lower carbon footprint, and more extensive outreach appears to be well-worth the added costs.
This was a fun, honest, and informative discussion, and a glimpse into how the leaders are all struggling with this new landscape of hybrid meeting planning. There are no easy answers to many of the logistics as all the leaders acknowledge that we are entering uncharted territory, with each new meeting - a new experiment. We will learn much from these meetings going forward and adjust accordingly.
Fernando Calamante, Ph.D. (President of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine) is the Director of the Sydney Imaging Core Research Facility at the University of Sydney.
Randy Gollub, Ph.D., MD (Chair of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping) is Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry with a secondary appointment in Radiology at MGH.
George (Ron) Mangun, Ph.D. (leadership board member of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society) is director of the Center for Mind and Brain and Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Neurology at the University of California, Davis.