23 April 2020

Are posters right for online meetings? Thoughts from The Allied Genetic Conference virtual poster session #TAGC20

I have been watching many academic conferences move to online presentations this year with great interest. I want to see how they are going to do it and how well each format works.

In my Twitter feed today are discussions from The Allied Genetic Conference (#TAGC20). They have made their content free for anyone to view. Their poster session guidelines are here.

TAGC is handling their poster sessions by having people upload PDFs of their posters to Figshare, which has created a special collection for posters from this meeting. All the posters are available to view now, and no more can be uploaded. You can search through categories, or by keyword. (Zero hits for “crustacean” – d’oh!)

Here is an example of a poster where the presenter, Katja Kasimatis, recorded a ten minute walkthough to go with the PDF. Abigail Feresten did both a two minute and a ten minute version of her walkthrough (I think the short version was part of a “Poster preview” that is mentioned on the session guidelines but not completely explained.)

Finally, there will be Q&A sessions next week. I’m going to try reaching out to presenters to see how it goes. The FAQ notes there these Q&A sessions are not going to be archived.

Poster Q&A sessions will not be made available beyond the live discussion, so presenters may choose to discuss data in those sessions that they are not comfortable publishing on their poster.

The TAGC FAQ contains some interesting advice about format.

Although any dimensions can be used, remember that attendees will be viewing posters on their computer screens. ...

We recommend arranging information blocks like

1 > 2 > 3
4 > 5 > 6
7 > 8 > 9

instead of the print poster tradition of

1 4 7
2 5 8
3 6 9.

In other words, layout your poster in rows instead of columns. This makes sense, as the idea is that you are going to scroll down, and you don’t want people to have to scroll back to the top of the page all the time.

But if you’re going to do that... why not just a single, continuous column?

The TAGC20 advice on layout, probably without them realizing it, strikes at the heart of something I have been thinking about a lot with online poster sessions.

What, specifically, makes an online poster presentation a “poster”?

In this format, you are first uploading a document to Figshare. Why make that document mimic a single large piece of paper? Why not just upload a manuscript?

In this format, you have the option of uploading a video walkthrough. Why show section after section of a single large page? Why not just upload a slide talk?

The conference poster has always been a strange hybrid format that was born out of necessity more than anything else. If conferences go ever more online (an existing trend that the COVID-19  pandemic is only accelerating), we should not continue to have posters just because, “We’ve done it that way for decades.” Maybe there is no need for posters to continue in virtual conferences.

External links

TAGC Virtual poster session guidelines
TAGC Figshare collection

1 comment:

Robert Charles said...
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