The 2020 online conference paradigm

by Sebastião Quintas last modified 2021-03-18T18:15:33+02:00

During this trying times, in which the world faces an unprecedented pandemic situation, scientific research endured a strange, yet adaptive transformation. As the work-from-home system had to be implemented everywhere, so did conferences. This strange shift from in person to virtual conferences was, at first, very strange to me, specially due to the fact that it was my first year as a PhD student, and I have never attended a major international conference before.


During 2020 I was able to attend two conferences on behalf of the TAPAS project, Interspeech 2020 and ICASSP 2020, being the two completely remote. Concerning ICASSP 2020, that was supposed to take place in Barcelona, it was one of the first conferences that did the online/remote shift, since it took place less than two months after the Covid-19 outbreak in Europe. Given the short planning time to perform the switch, I believe that has an attendee I had an overall good experience with the online format. The information was made available not only during the conference, but also on the two weeks afterwards, which helped catching up on some presentations and talks. For Interspeech 2020, which was hosted in Shanghai in a similar fully remote setting, I had the opportunity to do a paper presentation, that was pre-recorded for the sake of logistics. Contrary to ICASSP, Interspeech is exclusive to speech related research, therefore there were a lot of interesting topics being covered on several parallel sessions, which can be slightly overwhelming at first for newcomers like me. Despite this, it was still possible to learn a lot, receive some feedback, pose some questions and also engage in some networking activities. Evidently I would prefer to attend the conferences in person, however given the circumstances, I believe that I had a positive experience by attending both, and I’m looking forward for the upcoming 2021 editions, either remote or in person.


Similarly to the conferences, the TAPAS training events also had to be adapted to the current pandemic situation, taking place in an online fashion as well. The previous training event was focused on entrepreneurship which I personally find a very appealing topic. Instead of a one-week “intensive” course, it was spread during the first months of 2021, one sessions per week. I find this format interesting as it generates continuity and it provides more time for ideas to simmer. The training event targeted a lot of business related concepts, such as generating business models, brainstorming and pitching, which are skills that can easily be applied in a research environment as well. Generally speaking, I really enjoyed the event, since it opened a window to a lot of possibilities that can be explored after finishing my PhD, and that business and scientific research can (and sometimes should!) walk hand in hand.