By: Abbie Sommer
Academia and industry have both been challenged to change the way we do things in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of our conferences were canceled and a portion were moved online. While we don’t get to travel to another city and network with our colleagues as readily, there have been many unforeseen benefits of having conferences online.
- You save money
A barrier to inclusion in conferences has always been travel expenses. Conference fees, flights, and hotel rooms often do not come cheap. Often students and faculty have to be presenting in some way to get expenses paid for by grants or the university. With online conferences, flights and hotel costs are no longer a barrier and often the conference fees are reduced as well. This was the case with the American Society of Nutrition Meeting, which offered its conference free of charge. IFT reduced conference costs as well.
- Increased inclusivity
With no need to travel to participate in the conference, inclusivity has increased. International participants that may not have wanted to or been able to travel across the globe are able to participate in conferences. In the IFTSA college bowl competition, this has always been an issue. Schools from other countries such as Ecuador or Mexico, have not been able to participate previously due to inability to travel to the regionals. Although unfortunately college bowl did not happen this year, in our online trivia competitions hosted by the College Bowl Task Force and IFTSA, we have seen participants from all over the world.
(Keep a lookout for another food-themed trivia during IFT, Tuesday, July 14 at 8:15 PM CST)
- Increased access to sessions
Often in a conference, multiple sessions are going on at once. You have to pick and choose which ones you want to go to. Now that sessions are more likely to be recorded, you can watch them at any time. Some conferences are even allowing you to continue access to sessions after the conference is over.
- Increased flexibility
In the past, you had to commit to multiple days for a conference. This meant taking time off work. Online conferences allow the flexibility to watch a few sessions as desired and continuing working, watching your kids, etc.
Although we may miss interacting with our colleagues and traveling, online conferences have reduced costs, increased inclusivity, and allowed continued access to more scientific knowledge. Perhaps these challenges will stick around and make conferences more available to everyone for good.
SMF Blog Writer
After graduating with a B.S. in Food Science from Purdue University, Abbie decided to move one state over to pursue a Masters from Ohio State. Her research is focused on soy-based functional foods for use in clinical trials. When she’s not making thousands of soft pretzels (for science, of course), you can find her training for half marathons or experimenting in the kitchen. Recently, Abbie has developed a passion for sourdough and treats her starter like a child. She also has a recipe blog (Sommer Eats) as well as an Instagram account (sommer_eats), where she posts somewhat healthy but always delicious recipes.