International photonics conference heads online, stays local
Six academic leaders have joined forces to create a digital photonics forum that will bridge the tyranny of distance and encourage access and sustainability
While online learning has been readily adopted for some time, academic conferences have remained an in-person activity. This will change radically on January 13, 2020 with the Online Photonics Meetup, or POM. The event will focus on nanoscale quantum optics, integrated optics, and optical materials
The free online conference is being organised by Professor Andrea Armani from the University of Southern California, Professor Rachel Grange from ETH Zurich, Professor Igor Aharonovich from University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Professor Mikhail Kats from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr Riccardo Sapienza from Imperial College London, and Dr Orad Reshef from the University of Ottawa.
The international committee formed around a common goal: solving several widely acknowledged issues with the conventional conference format. These include the large carbon footprint of air travel, the impact of travel on families, the increasing cost of travel and conference fees, and challenges associated with visas. POM’s online format is intended to remove these barriers.
The organisers believe the approach will have a positive effect on the career trajectories of early career researchers and improve access to education for students.
“Though we all had different motivations, the committee came together with a common goal: improving the format of academic conferences. As a member of the World Economic Forum and a mentor for several junior faculty, I was particularly motivated by the need to improve access for education on a global scale and the need to reduce the burden of academic travel on families for early career researchers,” said Professor Andrea Armani.
POM is encouraging the formation of POM-hubs, which are self-organised viewing sites. The goal of these sites is to encourage networking at a local level to build a sense of community between researchers and students. Globally, there are already more than 20 POM-hubs, located on four continents.
“It will be great to listen to fascinating talks from leading researchers around the world without the need to leave Sydney,” said Professor Igor Aharonovich.
UTS Faculty of Science is supporting a POM-hub, organised by Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Sejeong Kim
In the days leading up to the event, organisers will host a virtual poster session – participants can post images of posters online with a conference hashtag, then answer questions electronically. Unlike a conventional poster session, which has a fixed time frame and limited audience, this approach can grow with its audience.
“We envision that this would be the future of the scientific meetings, where online meetups will complement existing meetings,” said POM co-chair Dr Reshef.