Iseult Lynch, SETAC SciCon Scientific Committee Chair, University of Birmingham and Tamar Schlekat, SETAC Scientific Affairs Manager

The First Fully Online Conference Dedicated to Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry

It has been no mean feat to convert the SETAC Europe 30th Annual Meeting, a five-day scientific conference consisting of some 1,500 presenters, from a face-to-face meeting to fully online in less than two months, but necessity has always been the “mother” of innovation. The scientific committee together with the SETAC Europe Council and the SETAC staff mobilized to the rescue, and we now predict a highly successful meeting.  The transition to a virtual meeting will in fact more fully support the meeting goal of providing “Open Science for Enhanced Global Environmental Protection” by being accessible to an even wider audience. It was important to us to include networking opportunities and discussions for the live event from 3–7 May, and recorded meeting content will be available to registered users for one month after the conference. This will help overcome the annual meeting dilemma that we all face–which of two or more presentations occurring at the same time in different rooms we should attend! Now we will have the opportunity to view talks at our leisure in the days after the main event.

The platform selected to host SETAC SciCon is very versatile and fully interactive, promising an enjoyable experience for all of us while we adhere to social distancing. Trust us, this is NOT a day long webinar – a format that has been hastily adopted by some conference at this time. We are seriously worried that SETACers will insist on this platform for other events leaving us yearning to meet in cities around the world. We would be remiss not to point out that training courses, often sold-out at SETAC meetings, will also occur online using a learning platform. Many of our trainers were agreeable to conduct their training virtually as most universities are using similar options during this unusual time, and the students seemed eager to register.

The SETAC SciCon platform seamlessly accommodates many of the features we have come to expect at SETAC meetings in the comfort of your home, including:

  • An auditorium for semi live events (which are live events that are also recorded for later viewing) including plenary talks and session discussions
  • An exhibit hall with multiple functionality that allows for interaction with exhibitors
  • A poster hall for posters and poster corners
  • A talks-on demand area that houses all the platform presentations
  • A slew of topical chatrooms for all to visit
  • A resource center where materials may be downloaded to a virtual briefcase
  • A “lobby” where you can get “directions,” technical support or help from the SETAC staff at the information desk

The exhibit hall will include several of our strongest supporters, featuring many online offerings, as well as the SETAC Square and beloved SETAC Publications booth where a slew of activities are being planned. Finally, if you like a bit of competition, you’ll enjoy some of the games incorporated through the space. We’re very pleased with the platforms we selected for SETAC SciCon and the associated training, and we hope you will be too!

Despite the upheaval of moving to the virtual SETAC SciCon format, a large number of participants from around the world are still expected, and therefore the program was organized to accommodate multiple time zones. SETAC SciCon will commence at 13:00 UTC on Sunday, May 3, with a brief opening ceremony, followed by a plenary presentation from Annemarie van Wezel, University of Amsterdam, on SETAC’s role in the EU GreenDeal. An opening reception follows to allow those joining live a few minutes to waive at colleagues from across the globe via video.

SETAC SciCon plenary talks will be live streamed from the auditorium Sunday through Wednesday and also recorded for later viewing. Platform and poster sessions will be available on-demand starting Sunday until a month after the meeting. Interaction via text between presenters and participants will be enabled Monday through Thursday via individual chatboxes associated with each presentation. Further, live oral discussions for each session, moderated by the session chairs, will be organized daily, which will also be tapped for later viewing. In addition to viewing presentations on demand and joining live session discussions, those interested in particular topics, have the option to find colleagues in the topical chatrooms or the general chatroom for further discussions.

SETAC SciCon word cloud

Figure 1: Word cloud created from the session titles for SETAC SciCon.

The scientific program for SETAC SciCon is diverse and reflects the broad range of topics that SETAC members and researchers are exploiting, as shown visually in the Wordcloud in Figure 1. We cannot possibly do it justice while guarding from biases based on our own favorite topics in this article. Therefore, we invite you to view the sessions by track as well as the special sessions on the meeting website. Needless to say, all of the SETAC Interest Groups are well represented by exciting and cutting-edge sessions. To see individual presentations and their abstracts, please consult the scientific program.

Notably, reflecting the conference theme of Open Science, there are several sessions with a strong focus on open data and its (re)use for environmental risk assessment, including session 3.02 – Advances in Exposure Modelling: Bridging the Gap Between Research and Application, session 1.12 – Perspectives on Data Driven Biology: Applications and Safety Assessments,  and session 6.01 – Increasing the Utility of Non-standard Studies in Weight of Evidence Evaluations.

Overall, we are confident that our packed scientific program has something (many things) for everyone and that our virtual experience will be a fantastic substitute for our usual face-to-face interactions in these unusual times.

See you at SETAC SciCon where we will raise a virtual pint of Guinness and say Sláinte (good health). Till then, stay home and stay safe!

Author’s contact information: i.lynch@bham.ac.uk

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