October 4, 2021


by: admin


Tags: attend, Autism, conferences, person, Plan, Researchers, Spectrum, survey, Year


Categories: autism

Few autism researchers plan to attend conferences in particular person this yr: Survey | Spectrum

Session adjourned: Another wave of pandemics has caused some autism researchers to postpone their return to face-to-face academic conferences.


Today is the final day of pre-registration for the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) annual meeting, which will be held virtually and in person in Chicago, Illinois in November.

For many autism researchers, however, the decision whether to participate or not was made months ago. The deadline for submitting an abstract for the meeting, the largest annual gathering of neuroscientists in the world, was July – just as the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus began to boost COVID-19 cases again in the United States .

That point gave Audrey Brumback, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Texas at Austin, a break. “It was just hard to imagine hanging out with 30,000 of my best international friends,” she says.

Brumback and the members of her lab usually attend SfN, and she is eager to resume face-to-face meetings, she says, where spontaneous conversation and networking are easier. Ultimately, however, she decided not to submit abstracts for SfN and instead attend a few smaller meetings over the next few months.

Smaller meetings offer a better chance to meet friends and colleagues, says Brumback, “unlike SfN this year, who knows who actually goes?” (SfN representatives declined to comment on the expected number of personal participants.)

Brumback is not alone in her hesitation. Spectrum interviewed autism researchers about their conference schedules by the end of the year. Of the 138 respondents, 29 said they plan to participate in the SfN, but only 10 expect to do so in person. Of the 109 who did not want to take part in the SfN, 64 said that they did not attend any other conferences either. Most cited the pandemic as the reason for their decision, although some said they never participated in SfN or that they faced travel and financial restrictions this year.

Based on the survey and the follow-up interviews, it is unclear when autism researchers will be ready or, in some cases, will be able to return en masse to the conference halls. However, after more than 18 months of virtual meetings, many are looking for and finding new ways to network and share their work.

“I’m very optimistic that people who are now PhD students or postdocs can handle permanent changes – zoom meetings and virtual conferences and so on. They’ll figure out how to make the most of it, ”says Ralph-Axel Müller, professor of psychology at San Diego State University in California. “Ultimately, it will probably be a good thing.”

Weighing Options:

To some extent, the reasons autism researchers cited for not attending conferences this season have been traced by career level. Senior scientists, for example, cited COVID-19 as the main impetus to skip SfN.

Young researchers might also have more reasons to go in person, researchers say. Because of its size, SfN is known for its networking opportunities and social events – something that online meetings cannot recreate.

“[SfN] Here, students have the opportunity to meet people with whom they might be able to do a postdoc, ”says David Beversdorf, professor of radiology, neurology and psychology at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri. “And that’s not trivial.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this adequately replaced in an online meeting,” he says.

Beversdorf plans to personally attend the conference with six employees from his laboratory. The meeting’s vaccination and mask requirements make him feel comfortable, he says, along with the fact that he and his students – who fully helped shape the decision – can take a quick direct flight from Columbia to Chicago to see their potential exposure during the Limit transports. The number of cases in Chicago has also started to decline.

Poster sessions – where young researchers are most likely to showcase their work and get valuable feedback from fellow scientists – have particularly suffered online, says Naihua Gong, a graduate student in Matthew Kayser’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

“Natural conversations don’t come about as easily as they do in person,” says Gong.

Rather than presenting their results in a busy conference room, junior researchers “sit in an empty zoom room waiting for people to stop by your poster for you to talk to,” says Zack Williams, PhD student in neuroscience and hearing Linguistics from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

In addition, the so-called “zoom fatigue” sets in, says Brumback, who could also skip the virtual component of SfN this year. Despite the convenience of attending a conference from home, it often backfires, she says, because it’s easy to get distracted by other things.

“75 percent of the reasons to go to a conference are to see friends, socialize, go out for a coffee and have spontaneous conversations in the hallway,” she says. “And I feel like whatever that would look like [at SfN this year] is really stilted. “

Limited choice:

Despite the appeal of face-to-face meetings for junior researchers, Spectrum’s surveys and interviews have also shown that many junior researchers face travel and financial restrictions that deny this option in advance.

Scientists may be “fed up with virtual meetings,” says Madelyn Gillentine, a geneticist at Seattle Children’s Hospital in Washington, but for some, “it’s better than nothing.”

And virtual meetings have a few perks, including the ability to revisit online conversations and flip through e-posters at a later time, Williams says.

For Amanda Kentner, a psychology professor at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston, a virtual option means students in her lab can afford to attend multiple sessions and showcase their work to a wider audience, she says.

Hieu Tran, one of Kentner’s undergraduate students, has presented his work at four online conferences since the pandemic began and says the poster sessions are working well.

“I’ve talked to a lot more people than I thought,” says Tran.

Online conferences also make it easier for international researchers to participate. Mallar Chakravarty would have preferred to attend the SfN in person, he says, but McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where he is an adjunct professor of psychiatry, has suspended almost all university-sponsored trips. Chakravarty says he will try to attend online, and he appreciates that more of his lab can attend as virtual conferencing is more accessible and less expensive.

Many researchers hope to see more hybrid conferences after the pandemic. But organizers need to keep fees down for attendees who cannot attend in person and provide more socializing opportunities to make remote meetings successful, says Alycia Halladay, chief science officer at the Autism Science Foundation.

“This includes breakout rooms and some high-tech ideas for involving scientists in various scientific activities,” Halladay says.

Clara Moreau, a postdoctoral fellow at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France, couldn’t travel in person to a meeting this year, but she tried to recreate some of the social aspects of home-based conferencing: she hosted sessions where she and she students saw each other to confer conference calls together on a big screen, with time for a follow-up discussion.

Sharing your work and learning about other people’s research was challenging when those opportunities only came in the form of screen time, Moreau says. But more human interaction made her feel more connected and inspired, she says.

“That helped a lot.”

Quote this article: https://doi.org/10.53053/HSSL4522


Don’t miss these tips!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.