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Academic Conferences in Crisis Mode – a verdict

Andreas P Kopp12 June 2020

What works and what doesn’t when conferencing online

Academic conferences are among the most important events for researchers. It is the place where you get to present results and receives feedback, where you can put your own name out there and show your face to the academic world, and where you get to network, meet heroes and heroines, academic crushes, and friends from across the globe. Conferencing is one of the perks of academic life – especially for early career researchers and PhD students, who rely on the networks gained at conferences for knowledge sharing and continued learning, for future collaborations, and above all, for the academic job hunt.

Three out of four conferences I planned to attend in 2020 are now over – one has been cancelled, two were transferred to online conferences. In addition, various workshops I meant to attend in person also ‘went digital’. It is time for some reflections and a verdict about academic conferencing during the current global crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic. These are my personal reflections, and your experience might be different. I think, however, that I capture some general aspects that might have been observed by many colleagues out there.

Coffee at desk

Cosily conferencing at home with better coffee, but less socialising

 

First of all, kudos to the many organisers who in most cases had very little time to change entire conferences to online layouts – it must have been stressful. Yet, it worked just fine most of the time. All the participants usually understand that these are different, challenging times, so nobody takes any hiccups seriously but instead remains patient and calm.

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Why partnership and collaboration are the future of data in cities?

maria.solis.1814 June 2019

MPA candidate María Jarquín attended the City Data Conference in Birmingham to learn about innovative solutions in which collaboration between local authorities could bring new approaches to urban issues.

Data is the future. However, this future is built upon collaboration. This is the main take away of the City Data Conference organised by NESTA, in partnership with the University of Birmingham and the West Midlands Combined Authority in early June. The purpose of this event was to bring solutions to the data challenges faced by local authorities.

The Conference started with insights from the first keynote speaker, Kit Collingwood from ThoughtWorks, who discussed the growing demand of expertise in data collaboration, which translates in having career transitions and cross-functional teams where developers can work with data scientists, policy-makers and users. Two solutions (and creative outcomes) shared were the FixMyStreet project and the Dear Data experiment.

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