A successful experiment – The online networking event ICYMARE 2020

The coronavirus pandemic forced a lot of well-established scientific habits to move forward into new ways. Also, ICYMARE could not happen in the way it was originally planned. However, this did not stop the ICYMARE family from organizing a successful networking event. With support from the University of Applied Sciences Bremerhaven, we organized an online conference and over 180 people from about 40 countries and over 110 institutions joined this experiment. “Most of the people in our generation are used to chatting and videocalls”, states Erik Sulanke, research assistant at the Thünen Institute of Sea Fisheries in Bremerhaven, Germany. “At a normal conference it’s difficult to approach somebody. There you have to have the courage and you also usually stick with colleagues and people you already know. Hence, this was a great opportunity to make new contacts. I also liked that everyone had to present something. And you didn’t need to perform a lecture about your actual results. Instead you could also present your opinion on a topic or throw some ideas in the room and hear what the others say about it.”

ICYMARE 2020 consisted of 16 video conferences as topical or open interdisciplinary sessions. Those sessions provided room for 10 to 20 early career researchers who gave short introductions about themselves, their research and possibly their future projects. “The interdisciplinary approach in the open sessions widened my horizon and I was able to make many new contacts”, says Alexandra Blöcker who does her PhD at the Institute of Marine Ecosystem and Fishery Science in Hamburg, Germany.

Thanks for everyonewho joined and supportedICYMARE 2020.

The session hosts did not only moderate the sessions but also facilitated the in-depth discussions among the participants to make sure everybody is included and connected to the group. Before and after the video conferences, all participants were invited to a group working tool to intensify their connections and to stay in touch afterwards.

Thanks to everyone who also participated in the session “Beyond Professional: Exploring the emotional impacts of COVID-19 in Academia” and for opening up and sharing your experiences with us. Our session found that many of the professional and personal challenges that early career researchers faced during this pandemic are related to each other. The main challenges we talked about were the unexpected plan changes, mobility issues, isolation, and an overall overwhelming sense of uncertainty. Reflecting upon their experiences during ICYMARE, we found the informal format to be helpful for allowing participants to relate to other early career researchers and to foster a sense of community with a willingness to share and help each other overcome those challenges. By combining the insights from our session with the results from the Social Network Analysis and other surveys, we are hoping to identify and further help implement best practices for online networking events that can help us all connect with each other and promote emotional wellbeing in academia. We look forward to sharing the results with you.

It was great having you on board. Thanks for everyone who joined and supported ICYMARE 2020. If you like let’s stay connected and see each other at ICYMARE 2021 BERLIN (22 – 24 May 2021).

Your ICYMARE Organization Team