As in-person conferences begin to make a return, we look forward to the opportunity to reconnect.
Two years into a global pandemic, we have witnessed a breathtaking achievement by the world’s scientific community. They have understood how COVID-19 is transmitted, developed a range of highly effective vaccines, and created efficient therapies for fighting the disease. This success means that some features of ‘normal life’ are starting to resume, and in-person conferences are one of those.
For the last two years, scientific collaboration has been forced online. There are certainly upsides to virtual meetings: the reduced carbon footprint and ease of access being two obvious ones. But even the best virtual space still lacks the subtle joy of meeting old friends and making new acquaintances in person, and it is only natural that many scientists are looking forward to travelling again.
Both the SPIE and APS have re-introduced a large in-person component to their flagship events — Photonics West and the March and April meetings, respectively. Attendees are required to be fully vaccinated and wear a mask at all times so the risk of transmission is reduced as much as is practical.
Like many researchers, our editorial team views conferences as an indispensable way of connecting with the community, keeping up with what excites our readers, receiving feedback, and igniting ideas for projects and commissioning. We have sorely missed the serendipitous conversations over a coffee break or a meal, and the more candid opinions that these informal interactions can encourage. We are therefore very much looking forward to reconnecting, and this will start at the March Meeting in a few weeks.
As we have noted previously (Nat. Phys. 17, 287; 2021), online and hybrid conferences are here to stay and we should continue improving the experience that they provide. One particular challenge seems to be managing the combination of in-person and remote attendance, so that those not at the venue can participate fully. Now is the moment to test new ideas, find out what works, and move on from what doesn’t. By doing so, we can retain the best of both modes of meeting, and build a more accessible and productive future for scientific collaboration.
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Good to see you again. Nat. Phys. 18, 121 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41567-022-01530-1