Guest blog

Guest Blog – The value of conferences

Blog from Dr Clarissa Giebel

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In June I’ve attended two in-person conferences- some of the first since the pandemic. Starting off the week I went to the Dementia United organised “Living Well with Dementia in Greater Manchester” Conference, where maybe around 150 or more carers, people with dementia, care providers, commissioners, and only very few academics were in attendance. This was followed by attending and presenting at the Alzheimer’s Disease International 2022 Conference in London (meeting some fellow NIHR Dementia Researchers!).

Having been excited to meet lived and professional experts, friends, and familiar and new collaborators in person (again), many of us reflected on the importance of conferences in a since-pandemic world.

Before the pandemic, conferences were the key outlet to share and discuss the latest findings. Often, these findings wouldn’t have been published yet or had just been released. But is that still the case now? I would say no.

In an era where digital media, and the need for fast (yet good quality) data and evidence, have become staples of academia, where is the role of conferences?

Whilst we are now starting to move on from purely COVID-19 focused research in dementia, the pandemic has left a lasting impression on the way academia works.

These days, we can place preprints on the Web when we’ve just submitted a manuscript, and engaging about research and the latest findings has become so much easier and more accessible (for those with Internet skills and access) via social media.

That can mean that many findings presented at conferences are already known and publicised. That is not bad thing though. Presenting your research at conferences such as ADI or Alzheimer’s Europe obviously brings additional, international exposure, plus it’s always great to see a proper summary than only ever reading papers.

So maybe conferences, at least now, are not solely about the sheer novelty of evidence. Instead, the major advantage of attending in-person conferences is the ability to network, in real life, again!

I’ve met so many familiar and new faces this past week, and would say the key benefit was to network at those conferences. We live in a digital age and social media and other forms of connecting are fantastic, but every once in a while it is even better to all get together in person and share that passion for what we are doing (and eat delicious chocolate brownies) at conferences.

See you all at Alzheimer’s Europe in Bucharest this October?


Dr Clarissa Giebel

Author

Dr Clarissa Giebel is a Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool and NIHR ARC North West Coast. Clarissa has been working in dementia care research for over 10 years focusing her research on helping people with dementia to live at home independently and well for longer, addressing inequalities that people with dementia and carers can face. Outside of her day work, Clarissa has also organised a local dementia network – the Liverpool Dementia & Ageing Research Forum, and has recently started her own podcast called the Ageing Scientist.

 

 

 

 

Comments 1

  1. Rachel

    As I only started my PhD last year, I can’t offer any perspective comparing the conference experience pre and post pandemic, so my commentary is therefore limited! Very interesting to hear how they have become more network-focused. Pandemic factors aside, I would argue academia needs to embrace new ways of facilitating sharing knowledge and networking. The costs (both financial and environmental) of international conferences are considerable but also attendance isn’t a choice available for all. If we want to ensure academia is open and inclusive of diverse perspectives, what becomes of those who cannot attend due to health needs, caring responsibilities or other circumstances? The digital tools available to us are increasingly opening up opportunities we miss if we focus on in-person conferences. Yet we don’t want to get overwhelmed trying to maximise every possible outlet and experience. I would love to see conferences evolve to be more inclusive of those attending (including attending from home) who are in pain, exhausted, anxious, etc. Encouragingly, this is starting to happen so I look forward to some positive experiences ahead. Even if there does come a day when the pandemic is “over”, the need to evolve will not.

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