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The Chair's Corner: The Annual Meeting and annual meetings; input please!

21 Apr 2016 13:08 | Olaf Svenningsen (Administrator)

Today’s topic is annual meetings in general, and the 2016 Annual Meeting in particular:

DARMA’s annual meetings are important events, and they should feel important to all members; they should be the kind of meetings you just would not want to miss. However, organizing them to live up to this ambition is a challenge. As the chair of the association, I would really like to be able to say that our annual meetings are the best, but how does one accomplish that?

To meet the justified wish that the dates of annual meetings are announced in good time, the Board has decided to set the dates at least 18 months in advance, the Annual Meeting in 2017 will be on 4-5 May: you can reserve the date already now. 

I attend some of our sister associations’ meetings, for example EARMA, ARMA, SRA, and just recently NARMA. One can learn a lot and DARMA will borrow (steal) good ideas shamelessly, whenever possible. However, even if DARMA has a large international presence, much thanks to you, our active members, we are a comparatively small association—no surprises there: “Danmark er jo et lille land”. This means that our annual meetings cannot ever become like e.g. NCURA’s or SRA’s gigantic spectacles of annual meetings, which gather c. 2,000 delegates each year (you really should attend one of those at least once in your life!). Those conferences have almost as many parallel tracks as DARMA has members… or at least it can feel that way.

As you know, DARMA has experimented with the format of our annual meetings during the past couple of years, and with the experiences and feedback we have received, the Board tries to develop the concept and will be testing a couple of new things this year. Here is how how the Board and I have been thinking:

The one item that received unanimously high ratings from last year’s annual meeting was the conference dinner. That makes a lot of sense: good food together with colleagues and friends in a nice setting can’t go all that wrong, can it? However, we have noticed that when we hold the conference in a university town, local people tend to not attend the dinner, also understandable, but a little disappointing for the organizers of the conference. The same pattern is obvious for our Nordic sister associations.

This has prompted us to keep the lunch-to-lunch concept, which has several advantages; delegates can leave home at a reasonable hour, and also get home in reasonable time, so that your spouse can have picked up the kids and have dinner ready and waiting when you arrive (just kidding; keep on dreaming…). For the above-mentioned reasons, we also decided to not have the conference in a university town, to make it easier to enjoy the social part of the conference. It also solves a “fairness” issue that has been discussed many times, since all delegates need to travel. Nyborg is fairly in the middle of the country, with easy access from most places, and Hotel Sinatur is beautifully located right on the beach with a spectacular view of Storebælt and the bridge. Even if hotel rooms will be included, the price for the conference can be kept at about the same level as previous years.

The content of the conference is more challenging: Presentations are a given, but finding good presenters is a gamble. A presenter that looks really interesting may turn out to be a dud, and conversely, a presenter that may have seemed uninteresting may turn out to be a fantastic presenter and a real hit. Also, people have very different preferences, and during my years in DARMA’s board, not a single presenter at an annual meeting has ever received unanimously high ratings; someone always dislikes it thoroughly, regardless of what the topic is or how the presentation went.

That said, there will be some interesting presentations at the 2016 meeting; we are inviting presenters from our Nordic neighbors, and maybe an Englishman or two, to talk about many relevant topics—peer review, gender, impact, costing and overheads and much more—more details to be released as soon as possible. Changes tend to happen at the last moment…

This year, we will introduce a couple of new session formats, as an experiment:

  • Hot Topic Round Table Discussions: this will be open thematic discussions, which will close the first day, so discussions can continue into the ocean, if someone would dare a swim, or more realistically, over a drink and then dinner. A Hot Topic Round Table can either conclude at the meeting, or lead to a new or old Special Interest Group or maybe to the organization of a Westensee Workshop or something completely different; the possibilities are endless.
  • Funders’ Forum: we have invited leading representatives of the largest research funders in Denmark to a panel discussion, where they will present their view on the present situation and outlook for the future, followed by a discussion about where research funding in Denmark may be heading. Delegates are invited to suggest questions and topics, by sending me mail, or writing a comment below.

The board has discussed the possibility of organizing a poster session, but we are not sure of the level of interest from the members; please feel free to comment on that.

So, this is basically where the planning is at the moment. We are close to having all speakers confirmed, sponsor agreements are being negotiated, and the program will soon be available. If this year’s meeting turns into a success, we will keep the format, and as you may have noticed, we will set the date for future annual meetings at least 18 months in advance (in 2017, it will be 4-5 May).

Now, please give us your input; answer or comment on these questions:

  • What would make DARMA’s annual conference a must-go-to event, so that you felt that you really needed to attend?
  • What do you think of the ideas outlined above? Are we on the right track? Do you have any additional ideas?

The board would really appreciate your input. You can reply either in the comment field below or by sending me mail.

Have a really pleasant weekend!

Comments

  • 26 Apr 2016 16:35 | Anonymous
    Dear DARMA board

    I am very excited about the Hot Topic Round Table Discussions. If we manage to find topics, that are hot enough, this seems a very promising format.

    In general I think we shouldn't lament that Denmark is so small and can only have small scale events. "Gør en dyd af nødvendigheden" as we say - and make the most of the small scale.

    Being a smaller group allows for more intimate discussions than mega-conferences allow for. Room for mingling and a framework that allows participants to discuss what they learn from presenters is very valuable.

    Less is more - if you manage to make the most of what a small scale event can offer, I am sure DARMA meetings will become the not-to-miss event you aim for :-)

    Looking forward to seeing everyone in Nyborg!

    All the best,
    Annette
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  • 09 May 2016 11:21 | Marie Terpager
    Dear DARMA board,

    It sounds very interesting, both the Hot Topic Round Table discussions and the Funders forum. I am sure a lot of us have questions for the funders :)

    A topic that is getting more attention these days is that research & innovation is getting more dependent on private foundations and the fact that only few of these are covering indirect costs. So costing and overheads seems to be a relevant topic, especially in the current funding landscape (also seen in relation to the EUFORI study you recently described). It would be interesting to share knowledge and experience, and get the input from the funder representatives. Maybe discuss how a national strategy maybe could be (as they have done in sweden)?

    Another topic that I think is getting more focus, and that we keep discussing in our unit, is how to approach private entities for collaborations. Having a private partner in you consortium is anever increasing demand - H2020 Societal Challenges, Innovationsfonden and have sneaked into the Marie Curie programmes as well. It would be interesting to share knwoledge, experience, ideas etc on this issue.

    Looking forward to the meeting

    All the best,
    Marie
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