Even before coronavirus caused most large events to be called off, there was a growing feeling that academic conferences had problems that could be addressed through digital events. Conferences gather scientists from around the globe in one hotel or university campus to discuss and present their work - and while they are invaluable for promoting innovation, their large cost, carbon footprint, and exclusions of academics from countries with visa restrictions caused some researchers to consider alternatives.
4 years ago, the 'Brain Twitter Conference' (brainTC) started online - led by researchers from the Aalto Brain Centre, part of the Department of Neuroscience and biomedical engineering at Aalto University in Finland. This year, the team are running an event in collaboration with the Organisation for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) which hosts yearly one of the biggest neuroscience conferences in the world.
"OHBM has been thinking of hosting more online events, so it was obvious to our team at Aalto and to Professor Aina Puce, Chair-elect of the OHBM Council, the that we should join forces to expand "brainTC" and reach out to more researchers and the general public, and so OHBMx was born." said Dr Enrico Gleran, Staff Scientist at the department of Neurosciece and biomedical engineering at Aalo.
"Unfortunately, due to the recent covid-19 epidemic, OHBMx becomes even more critical and important for scientists to network using other means than face to face conference meetings." said Dr Enrico Glerean
The conference will take place for 24 hours during the spring equinox. "Presenters" give their talks as tweet threads, and answer questions posted by audience members. The talks are also mirrored on a separate website so researchers from countries where access to twitter is restricted can also follow along.
The other advantage of the conference is that it makes access to cutting edge research open to a bigger audience than those who can afford to attend a conference. By allowing a wider portion of the public to follow and engage with academic discussion of brain research, the organisers hope for lively debate, and to inspire more people to be interested in neuroscience research.
If you are interested in following the conference, you can see the list of speakers here https:/
What is a Twitter conference?
A Twitter conference is a virtual conference that takes place on Twitter under the hashtag #brainTC. Just like a regular conference, #brainTC will feature both keynotes and research presentations, but the talks will be delivered via a series of tweets under the conference hashtag. The conference removes the hassle of travel by allowing scientists to meet and interact using Twitter. Check previous #BrainTC's at braintc.aalto.fi/2017/, braintc.aalto.fi/2018/, braintc.aalto.fi/2019.
For more information, you can read about Professor Puce's blog about twitter conferences here: https:/