Annegaaike Leopold, SETAC Europe President

Thankfully, spring has no idea that there is a pandemic going on, and as always, the first beautiful spring days have arrived here in Europe and brought with them brightly colored flowers, the first warm rays of sunshine, and birds singing and building their nests like crazy.

Other than spring arriving as usual, everything else has changed since August, when I gave you my first update as SETAC Europe President. First of all, many of our members, their loved ones, friends and colleagues are now under direct threat of this terrible virus. I hope the fear and uncertainty will soon pass, but I suspect that will not be for some time. Let us hope that one positive outcome from the pandemic is that it unites communities and countries as we all fight the same battle.

Over the past three weeks, the SETAC office staff have performed an amazing feat and have converted the physical SETAC Dublin meeting into a fully virtual meeting, SETAC SciCon, which means that the SETAC Europe 30th Annual Meeting can take place from 3–7 May 2020 as originally planned. A huge thank you goes out to all of our SETAC staff, inspired by Bart’s bounded optimism and supported by the SETAC Europe Council and so many of our members.

As I write this, we learn that we have 1,400 confirmed registrations and 1,600 platform and poster presentations. This includes about 60–70% of the originally registered platform presentations! All the presentations will be pre-recorded and available on-demand throughout the conference, irrespective of the time-zone, and for one month afterwards, too. So, you may actually be able to follow many more presentations and see many more posters than you would normally be able to at an annual meeting. You will be able to interact with presenters and other attendees in designated chat boxes throughout the conference. And, just imagine–as a presenter, your science receives continuous feedback throughout the conference! You can register for the conference until the very last day – in fact, you can register until the end of the conference! And, if you have a poster to present at the last minute, you can submit your abstract until 20 April and be part of the “last-minute, breaking science” session. Every single extra registrant is a win for science and…is a win for our Society!

It is heart-warming to hear the positive responses from our members. Mafaldo Castro, our Student Advisory Council chair, tells me this:

This is a great alternative for students who are willing to sacrifice in-person meetings in favor of a lower carbon footprint, and they also like the idea of the flexibility such a meeting offers. In addition, the conference will be more financially accessible for students from low income countries.

There will be at least 23 exhibitors in the virtual Exhibition Hall, thanks to Barbara Koelman’s hard work, and there will be ample opportunity for exhibitors and visitors to meet each other, through live interaction, during the welcome get together after the opening ceremony. During the conference, there will be ample opportunity for visitors to chat with exhibitor representatives as the system provides an opportunity for both group and private chats.

As I enter my last month as SETAC Europe President, I would also like to touch on what the SETAC Europe Council accomplished this year, in the pre-corona era! Before I do that, I would like to tell you how intensely fortunate I feel to be allowed to work with all the wonderful, warm, inspired and talented individuals on the council!

We made substantial progress in achieving our SETAC Europe Strategic Goals 2018–2020. Here are some of the things we worked on:

  • Under the leadership of Michelle Bloor, and coordinated by Rebecca Bundschuh, the SETAC Europe Awards Committee developed three new awards: the Outstanding Science Career Award, Early Career Scientist Award and Science-Based Risk Communication Award. In addition, the Return to Science Grant was revitalized. Join the SETAC SciCon Opening Ceremony on 3 May to see who won!
  • Vice President Thomas-Benjamin Seiler led discussions during our face-to-face meeting in September, building on the membership survey developed by Amy Brooks. We integrated the survey into the “One SETAC” philosophy, which is being developed at the global level and for which we helped establish the framework.
  • The SETAC Declaration on Research Integrity was initiated by Karel de Schampelaere and first developed in the SETAC Europe Council. In October 2019, the SETAC World Council adopted this declaration with some additions.
  • Major progress was made in the SETAC Europe Certification Program Committee, led by Kees van Gestel. A number of European organizations have committed to taking part in the program. And of course, a major contribution was made by this committee, and by Rebecca Bundschuh and Bart Bosveld, towards the establishment of the International Board of Environmental Risk Assessors (IBERA).
  • The SETAC Europe Education Committee, chaired by Bruno Campos, worked hard on preparing a very interesting set of training courses that will run during SETAC SciCon this year.
  • In addition to further strengthening our partnership with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), we are also building a relationship with DG Santé to contribute to the goals of the European Green Deal.
  • We will be holding a (European) Green Deal Discussion Forum on 5 May, during SETAC SciCon, aimed at identifying how SETAC members can best contribute chemicals strategy for sustainability. The information gathered from the discussion forum, which will be preceded by a questionnaire, will also inform the new SETAC Europe Strategic Goal (2020–2022) on the Green Deal, to assist the SETAC Europe Council’s planning.

During the Annual General Assembly, held on Wednesday, 6 May, during the SETAC SciCon, we hope many of you will attend as we will be electing a number of new SETAC Europe Council members.

From this place, I would like to thank the Executive Committee, all the SETAC Europe Council members, Bart, the SETAC Europe office, the broader SETAC staff and so many of our members for the wonderful cooperation and for allowing so many excellent developments to take shape this year – with the absolute pinnacle being the SETAC SciCon. Join us for what will be a most unique SETAC conference experience!

Author’s contact information: aleopold@calidrisenvironment.com

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