22 December 2022

2022 in review: Face-to-face poster sessions return but covid never goes away

When I think about posters, poster sessions, and academic conferences this past year, all I can think of is this pair of tweets.

Katie Greifeld tweeting "I love conferences" and then "I have covid."

“I love conferences,” then, “I have covid.”

I just can’t get forget that.

I saw a lot of variations on those tweets over the year. 

The virtual element of conferences that emerged in the last two years was almost entirely absent from conference tweets. Instead, I saw a lot of people happily sharing pictures of themselves at their posters, at meetings, often in large groups, with no masks on.

Most conferences did not communicate risks or infections to their attendees.

I didn’t go to any conferences this year for a couple of reasons, but part of it was that I didn’t think it would be particularly safe for me to do so. 

Many other people also feel like going to a conference without clear public health guidelines is far too risky for them. This is particularly true for people who are immune compromised or who live with such people. They rightly feel extremely excluded and shut out of a key part of their professional circles.

This was in stark contrast to a lot of discussion about inclusion and accessibility of science.

A few conferences were exemplary in their approach to public health. But most took the “We are back to normal” approach that seem to be the working policy of many governments, despite a lot of evidence to the contrary.

In some places in North America, 2022 was the deadliest year of the pandemic so far. Covid deaths in the US were lower than 2020 or 2021, but that country still racked up over a quarter of a million deaths. New Inquiry is running a series of articles about how the United States pretended the COVID-19 pandemic was over even though over a quarter of a million people died from it in 2022.

I was also listening to the Taproot podcast this morning (Taproot podcast, season 6, episode 2), which also discussed conferences. Hosts Ivan and Liz said one of their themes for this season is, “Have we learned from the covid pandemic? Can we do things better?”

I am still hoping that the answer to that is “Yes, we can learn,” but I am not feeling optimistic.

I want to see poster sessions in person again next year. I would like conference organizers to make that less risky to do.

External links

Track post-conference COVID infections

The year the “ended” (Part 1)

Taproot S6E2: The Tension Between Robustness and Efficiency in Biological and Human Systems  

No comments: