Virtual meetings, webinars, quizzes, 'drinks parties' and conferences have been sown so deeply into our social fabric that it feels disorientating to imagine sitting down in an auditorium of people to listen to a hotly-anticipated keynote. A stranger offers a handshake? Unthinkable. Attending a buffet? Someone pass me the sanitiser. Yet, our growing familiarity with e-socialising has meant that we have, in many respects, seen more of each in the past year than ever before. The social restrictions that we have grown accustomed to have drawn us paradoxically both further apart and closer together as we navigated the last anxious twelve months.

The question that comes now is, what's next? What will socialising, networking, and researching look like in a post-pandemic world? At the time of writing this, the debate on vaccine passports grows hotter, bristling with concerns for privacy and inequality, as planning for the first large-scale events resembles a war game. Can we learn from the innovations born from emergency and reassemble our 'normal' in a way that is kinder to both people and planet?

To honour the UK's (hopefully) imminent ease of COVID-19 restrictions, throughout March we have been discussing conferences. Whether you were a conference regular pre-pandemic, or you began your postgraduate journey during 2020 and thus have yet to experience your first conference, the chances are things are going to be very different as we transition to a hybrid of physical and virtual events. Despite the numerous technical glitches, virtual conferences have been an overwhelming success, presenting new opportunities to share knowledge widely, inclusively, and with respect for our planet. The worldwide travel restrictions and our newfound digital competencies have demonstrated the exciting potential for collaborations and discussions which pay attention to our carbon footprint while freeing up time for those with busy schedules or caring responsibilities.

As a community, we have benefitted greatly from the pivot to the virtual space, giving us the chance to connect across countries and time zones with like-minded researchers. This has been reflected in our many Twitter Hours, webinars, and virtual meet-ups. As a testament to this, our committee has grown to encompass multiple cities and even continents! I am excited and grateful to say that this month this newsletter has surpassed 300 subscribers, while our Twitter following has flown past 2,000, with engagement in six of the seven continents (we are yet to reach Antarctica!). Nonetheless, we are also aware that the beauties of in-person socialising have been sorely missed by many of us. We have fond memories of our re-launch back in December 2019 - little did we know that this would be our first and last in-person event for over a year! We are looking forward to meeting you all in person as soon - and as safely - as possible.

See the full newsletter here: Conferences

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