Summing up the Annual Meeting 2016 – one week later

07 Jun 2016 22:15 | Olaf Svenningsen (Administrator)

One week has passed since DARMA’s Annual Meeting 2016, where c. 70 delegates met from lunch-to-lunch to listen to talks and discuss relevant topics. Over half of the delegates have evaluated the conference (the evaluation is still open...), and to my great pleasure, the meeting was a success: it would seem that we have found a good format for future Annual Meetings that we will fine-tune based on the constructive and relevant input from the delegates. 

Here I would like to share some of my own thoughts about the Annual Meeting—and about this kind of conferences in general—with you:

About presentations and topics: The presentations at this meeting scored an aggregate average of 4.5 out of 6 possible in the evaluations. As always, opinions were strongly divided about the presentations, which can have many reasons. Presenters can have good or bad days, technology can interfere in different ways – bad sound, weak projector, slide problems etc. Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong, will go wrong – definitely applies to conferences, and the program caused major headaches this year, but I have already written about that.

We do make an effort to make the program as generally interesting as possible, and balance it to be as attractive to as many of DARMA’s members as possible. Anyone who thought that the program was not interesting to them, should to tell me and/or the board what was missing or wrong. I of course thought the program was very interesting, but anything else would be silly. I do realize that people have different preferences, but very few members do communicate their wishes and opinions. I would personally wish that many more did; it does not have to be elaborate and we really do listen…!

Talking about listening: if it is difficult to hear the presenters, please say so and ask for a microphone! There is no shame or error in asking. When you are up front, it can be impossible to tell whether the sound is good in the entire meeting room. Also, I personally intensely dislike wearing microphone headsets, but it is often necessary.

About technology: All delegates at the meeting noticed the technical problems with the video connection to Stockholm – that was not my most pleasant moment, I assure you. However, we had tested the connection and ran through the presentation the week before, and also just before the session started, and it worked perfectly both times. Still something went very wrong. Why? The server at Vetenskapsrådet in Stockholm crashed fatally, exactly when the session started, so this particular kerfuffle just could not have been prevented.

About Hot Topic Discussion Roundtables: This session format got good reviews, and scored 4.8 out of 6 possible. Next year, we will repeat the roundtable discussions, and I have noted that a discussion leader should be appointed in advance for each topic, and that the discussions will be done in at least two rounds, so that it is possible to change group. Suggestions for topics are always welcome, and can be sent to me or the board anytime.

About the Funders’ Forum: This scored 5.4 out of 6 in the evaluations and was the smash hit of the conference. To my smug satisfaction, the panel members have also expressed that they really liked the discussion and the format and would like to participate again next year, so DARMA’s Funders’ Forum is here to stay! 

Some commented on the composition of the panel. The intention was to balance basic and applied, as well as wet and dry sciences. DFF's chair, Peter Munk Christiansen wanted to, but could not attend, so Jørgen Frøkiær represented DFF and the Villum-Velux Foundations were both represented by Lars Arnskov Olsen from the Villum Foundation. There was thus no intentional bias against social sciences and humanities – there never is within DARMA, I would like to stress.

About the meeting format and the venue: The lunch-to-lunch format, the easy-to-reach location and the possibilities for social interactions all received high scores, and almost exclusively positive comments. The auditorium at Sinatur Hotel Storebælt is probably one of Denmark’s best meeting rooms, and the location gave me a feeling of both attending a professional conference, as well as being on something suspiciously like a holiday, and it seems I was not alone. The conference venue received as high score as the Funders’ Forum in the evaluations – 5.4 out of 6 – and we have already booked it for next years Annual Meeting, which will be on 4-5 May 2017.

So mark your calendars already now, because the Annual Meeting in 2017 will be at least as good as this years conference – and there will definitely be dessert to the dinner… ;-)

Finally, if you wondered about the word "kerfuffle" used above, it is a very useful term that is explained here... ;-)

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