SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
8 October 2015
Volume 16 Issue 10
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SETAC Buenos Aires: An Exciting Latin American Experience

Pedro Carriquiriborde and Gustavo Somoza, Meeting Co-Chairs, SETAC Latin America 11th Biennial Meeting

SETAC Buenos Aires
Opening ceremony at SETAC Buenos Aires.

Time flies, and it seems like only yesterday that we started planning for the SETAC Latin America 11th Biennial Meeting, which took place from 7–10 September in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As we write this, the Buenos Aires meeting has passed and most of you are looking to future meetings and other scientific activities. For the meeting organizers, it is time to look back, assess the meeting and share our perspectives.

The Organizing Committee for Buenos Aires faced the challenge of organizing a full-scale SETAC annual meeting independently, with no assistance from a university, as has been a typical approach for most of us. This effort entailed working through many of the procedures and activities offered at a SETAC meeting in North America or Europe with the support of SETAC staff.

Of all the decisions the organizing committee had to make, the selection of the host city was an easy one. Buenos Aires is a very attractive city and easy to reach from around the world. However, selecting a venue was a challenge in many aspects, the budget had to match with the concept of holding a meeting in an environment that was comfortable for both government and industry. Usina del Arte, an old power plant built in 1917 and recently refurbished as a public cultural center for the city of Buenos Aires, was a wonderful meeting venue. The two main auditoriums, a symphonic music hall with 1,200 seats and the chamber music hall accommodating 200 people, both covered with acoustic wood panels, were perfect for the main talks. Two more auditoriums and one exhibition foyer for sponsor booths and posters were also available. In addition, a patio with food trucks was available for attendees to take a break and have lunch without having to travel too far from the meeting venue.

In contrast to the three previous SETAC Latin America meetings held in Montevideo, Uruguay, Lima, Perú, and Cumana, Venezuela with fewer than 200 registrants—the Buenos Aires meeting hosted more than 450 participants from 22 different countries. In addition to academia, the meeting attracted a good number of attendees from government and business, increasing the participation of these sectors in Latin America. The excitement of the attendees at this meeting was remarkable!  They crowded the rooms and foyer during the four days, actively interacting during the platforms, poster socials and other meeting activities.

SETAC Buenos Aires
Many students were able to attend the meeting as a result of grants.

The scientific program featured internationally recognized scientists John Giesy, Bryan Brooks, Damià Barceló, Terry Boyle, Paulo Saldiva, Mary Reiley and Vance Trudeau during four plenary lectures and three outstanding talks. John Giesy gave an especially memorable talk. Despite some last minute, personal circumstances that limited his travel to attend the meeting in person, Giesy insisted on fulfilling his commitment and gave his talk by teleconference. This was a learning experience in many ways for both the attendees and program organizers. First, we recognized the commitment SETAC members such as Giesy have to the organization. Offering to give his talk despite his last-minute change in circumstances, coupled with the cooperation and willingness of Bryan Brooks to switch the day of his talk in order to facilitate Giesy's teleconference needs, showed his dedication to the meeting’s success. Second, with the help of SETAC staff, we learned how to overcome technical challenges and effectively use technology. Attendees could easily ask Giesy questions, and he could respond as if he was at the meeting. This will help improve future SETAC LA meetings.

SETAC Buenos Aires

For the first time at a SETAC Latin America Meeting, the members who submitted their own proposal for the sessions, courses and other activities created the program. This helps explain the crowded rooms and fervent activities during the entire meeting.  In all, more than 50 session proposals were received and evaluated. This was a challenge for the organizing committee because it was a new experience for some of the members (and chairs), and they had to learn how to proceed with the SETAC meeting planning process. However, they did an excellent job, and the result was a final program that included four courses and 23 session, with four concurrent sessions each day.  All said, more than 550 abstracts were received for consideration to be presented as either a platform or poster presentation.

Students submitted their own proposals, which was another first for a SETAC Latin America meeting.  They organized the Student/Mentor Lunch, which brought together more than 50 participants for discussions.  The students organized a completely new activity called the Mate Debate, an informal talk with a senior researcher.  For this event, Fernanda Simoniello graciously accepted the invitation to speak with those students that attended. The program also included the Latin American workshop of the Global Horizon Scanning Research Prioritization Project, which was conducted during the first day of the meeting and included 15 participants from government, business and academia. Finally, meeting chairs invited attendees to submit their research to a special section of ET&C. The submittal deadline for this special section has already closed at the time of this Globe article, and we are happy to report that 53 submissions were received.

Buenos Aires was also the first SETAC Latin America meeting where the Pensacola office staff assisted the Organizing Committee, and all the procedures were run through the SETAC Meeting Management System. As always, the first time provides a learning experience, but overall the process was positive. In addition, a more transparent and efficient management of the meeting budget was possible thanks to the shared accounting between the Pensacola office and the Fundación Instituto de Investigaciones Biotecnológicas, who assisted with the administration of funds in Argentina.

The activity in the foyer around the booths was almost constant for the entire four days. The booths of the meeting supporters, SynTech and Binational Administrative Commission of the Uruguay River (CARU) were continuously visited by the attendees.

SETAC Buenos Aires

The increased number of students at this meeting was very noticeable.  This can be attributed to the support from sponsors to our student programs. DuPont supported the graduate student grants, which provided 14 travel awards and 30 registrations. Through the support of Syngenta and CARU, the organizing committee was able to provide 20 travel and 22 registration grants for undergraduate students. This support was very helpful, and we greatly appreciate the supporters’ contributions, especially because the traveling costs are usually prohibitive for students in Latin America to attend the meetings.

Awards were also presented during the meeting. At the opening, Terence Boyle received the SETAC Global Partners Capacity-Building Award, and ArcelorMittal Company awarded US $1,000 to Paloma G. Choueri from Brazil for the best graduate student presentation. During the closing ceremony, the organizing committee gave the “Convener Chairs Award” to the chairpersons of the four proposed sessions that received the most presentations: 1st Gisela Poletta and Fernanda Simoniello (Pesticides), 2nd Camilo Seabra and Helena Cristina Silva de Assis (Pharmaceuticals), 3rd Isabella Bordon (Metals) and 4th Pablo Demetrio and Federico Rimoldi (Ecosystem Level Effects).

SETAC Buenos Aires
Closing ceremony at SETAC Buenos Aires.

Cultural and social activities abound. During the opening ceremony a group of Lat-folk music, comprised of students from the “Bachillerato de Bellas Artes” of the National University of La Plata under the direction of Professor Mario Acosta, delighted attendees with three classic songs from Argentina and Brazil. The opening social included typical Argentine food and wine for all the attendees to enjoy. Also a conference banquet was offered, and a wonderful tango show, featuring the “Orquesta típica Bien Frappe” and the dancing couple Anabella Borgioli and Enrique De Fazio, closed the meeting.

During the closing ceremony, the venue for the 12th SETAC Latin America Biennial Meeting was announced. It will be held in Santos, Brazil. There is no doubt that all the experience gained at this meeting will help the Santos Organizing Committee to offer an even better meeting!

We would like to acknowledge all the support we received for conducting this meeting. A big thank you to Silvina Ceriani, the meeting manager, and Pablo Bramajo for their assistance in organizing the meeting. We thank Charlie Menzie and the SETAC Pensacola office staff Jason Andersen, Josh Sullivan, Linda Fenner, Terresa Daugherty, Sabine Barrett and Nikki Mayo for all of their assistance, support and patience through this process. We thank the chairs of the courses and sessions for their commitment in the organization and the running of each activity. We also would like to thank the student grant recipients that helped in the everyday tasks at the meeting. We hope that by doing so, you learned a little of the behind the scenes efforts of organizing a SETAC meeting and enjoyed it.

In closing, we wish to especially acknowledge all the meeting sponsors—CONICET (National Research Council of Argentina), ANPCYT (National Agency for Science and Technology Promotion of Argentina), DuPont, CARU, SynTech Research, Syngenta, ArcelorMittal, Biodynamics—for their support. Last but not least, we want to thank the Fundación Instituto de Investigaciones Biotecnológicas for the assistance with the administration of funds in Argentina.
We hope our experiences might pique the interest of more SETAC members from around the globe to attend the next SETAC Latin America meeting in Santos, Brazil. With all the growth and excitement in SETAC Latin America, there is no reason to miss it!

Authors’ contact information: pcarriquiriborde@gmail.com and somoza@intech.gov.ar

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