While distant and online learning is well-established, academic conferences have remained an in-person activity. This will radically change with a new conference, the Photonics Online Meetup (POM), launched by six photonics leaders from around the world to encourage access and sustainability.
The free online conference will take place Jan. 13, 2020. It is being organized by Professor Andrea Armani from the University of Southern California, Professor Rachel Grange from ETH (Zurich), Professor Igor Aharonovich from the University of Technology (Sydney), Professor Mikhail Kats from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Riccardo Sapienza from Imperial College London (London), and Orad Reshef from the University of Ottawa (Canada). The first event will focus on nanoscale quantum optics, integrated optics and optical materials.
The international committee was drawn together around solving several widely acknowledged issues with the conventional conference format. These include the large carbon footprint of air travel, the impact of travel on families, the increasing cost of travel and conference fees, and challenges associated with visas. POM’s online format is intended to remove these barriers. The organizers believe this approach (and the absence of any conference fees) will have a particularly positive effect on the career trajectories of early career researchers and will improve access to education for students.
“Though we all had different motivations, the committee came together with a common goal: improving the format of academic conferences,” says Armani, POM conference co-chair and the Irani Chair of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. “As a member of the World Economic Forum and a mentor for several junior faculty, I was particularly motivated by the need to improve access for education on a global scale and the need to reduce the burden of academic travel on families for early career researchers.”
POM is encouraging the formation of “POM-hubs,” which are self-organized viewing sites. The goal of these sites is to encourage networking at a local level to build a sense of community between researchers and students.
“The committee hopes for substantial participation from students, postdocs and other early career researchers,” says Kats, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at UW-Madison.
Thus far, more than 20 POM-hubs have been formed across four continents.
“There are great online platforms that enable you to not only listen to any talk, but also to interact easily with the speakers from every corner of the globe,” says Sapienza, a member of the POM organizing committee and a researcher in experimental solid state physics at Imperial College London.
The organizers optimized the schedule to be as convenient as possible for all participants, but all sessions will be recorded. In the days leading up to the event, the organizers are hosting a virtual poster session where participants can post images of posters online with a conference hashtag and then answer questions electronically in the “replies” stream. Therefore, unlike a conventional poster session, which has a fixed timeframe and limited audience, this approach is unlimited in duration and can grow with its audience.
“We envision that this could be the future of the scientific meetings, where online meetups will complement in-person meetings,” says Reshef, POM co-chair and a Banting postdoctoral fellow at the University of Ottawa.
For more information and registration links, visit the conference website.