"This will not be easy, but making this necessary shift successfully will establish a new standard for what defines medical conference success in the future," the ESR Board of Directors noted. "The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how humans interact with each other, and these changes are likely to persist, at least for some years."
To remain relevant, scientific societies must adapt to this new reality, they continued in the editorial published in European Radiology.
Encouraging interaction is vital for online conferences to succeed.
"Scientific meetings must change their structure to survive, and successful societies in the future will be those which embraced this new circumstance, and adapted early. Future conferences will be different from those of yore, and we must learn not to judge them by old standards," they wrote, adding that no one yet knows when face-to-face conferences can safely resume and what restrictions may still be necessary when they do.
Switching from onsite to online
It's feasible to switch from an onsite to an online meeting format and still meet most of the goals of a conventional medical conference, but to do so is challenging, the ESR concedes.
"Many of the necessary techniques are well established. Recording and streaming of conference sessions for later on-demand viewing has been offered by some societies (including the ESR) for some years. Live webinars are common educational tools," the authors stated. "However, a full congress is a more complex proposition, involving a variety of session types, aimed at diverse types of attendees, with many different forms of interaction between speakers and delegates."
The mold is broken, and the new, online ECR 2020 will be a different meeting, with a different structure and different outcomes, and it will be the first and the best (so far) of a new generation, they promised.
Prof. Boris Brkljačić (chairman), Prof. Michael Fuchsjäger (ESR president), Prof. Regina Beets-Tan (ESR first vice president), Dr. Adrian P. Brady (ESR second vice president), and Prof. Lorenzo E. Derchi (past president) wrote the statement.
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