vEGU2021: A “zoom” into science

Another EGU in online only mode and things have changed since last year. It started with technical chaos but after this got under control it was a really nice and enjoyable conference experience.

A week before

EGU is traditionally one week long, but this time it got extended for another week. The week focused on medal lectures and some networking events, but as those where hard to see, it was for most obviously just about the household names giving an interesting talk. Those talks were on Zoom, which allowed a simple following for most. For myself and many others it was still the week to prepare the contributions. The displays of last year got back, but were extended by a single slide for a 2 minute presentation. Communicating about this worked not really ideal, so there were still some questions around what acutally had to be prepared.

The “real” first day

We had the honor to convene our session on seasonal to decadal predictions in the morning of the “real” first day.

EGU had implemented a new environment compared to last year, which theoretically took care of some issues bugging last years edition. It started alright, but soon people had trouble to get onto the server (nothing unusual at EGU, that’s what we know from every edition). But as some speakers had audio troubles and then the promised breakout-chats after the initial comments did not show up it was quite a improvised discussion session. We implemented more or less a system we had used last year in the chat-only conference, but beside the chaos it was sad, that not everyone got the input on their contribution they deserved. But still, it worked rather well under the circumstances.

The sessions later that day were even more catastrophic from the technical side of things and so the technical system was changed to Zoom only. From then on it worked quite well, as most scientists are used to Zoom after a year of pandemic.

Relaxing in the middle

As a scientist with quite interdisciplinary interest, I always find something, which I like to watch. But this year I had the impression it was even more condensed. Anyway, a digital conferences has its advantages. You can stream the talks onto your TV, enjoy your couch and when the show is over you get to your desk to have some chats in the breakout rooms. In the evenings some networking events happened via Gather.town. It offered some options for meetings, which is the part which sufferes the most in digital conferences.

Final day

Friday was the day of my own little presentation and a lot of other talks I liked to see (unfortunately all at the same time).

My talk went quite alright, having a short talk does not require much creativity. There is not a lengthy introduction, everything is brought into short soundbites and it is effectively just an advert to lure people into the breakout session. Had a few discussions afterwards and enjoyed otherwise the rest of the meeting. In the evening was a closing party over Gather.town, which was a bit better than the Zoom one a year before, but still not optimal.

Do digital conferences now work?

Many said they preferred this year over the last edition. beside from the technical chaos on Monday it was quite enjoyable. It is still far away from the personal experience in Vienna, which I look really forward to in the upcoming years. It was possible to find and talk to people and former colleagues, setting up new projects and see what others do. Some liked the 2 minute presentations, I think they are not ideal.

Because the main struggle of this zoom-like conference is taht again Early Career Scientists py the prive. It is tough for them to get into a 2 minute ad-talk, stripped of all introductions and motivations. When you have seen the field beforehand in the last years, you know usually what they are talking about, but for those getting new into science it can be a quite steep demotivating learning curve. Also they do not get much exposure in the breakout-rooms cause established scientists use them for larger chats among themselves and drawing with this the attention away. The separation into talks and posters at the usual personal conferences has its advantages, which are often forgotten. But as also former editions of the EGU had developed away from ECR-friendliness, it is nothing surprising. The biggest challenge of a future EGU, may it be hybrid or online, will be to advance the experience of young scientists.

Final words

All in all it was a great conference. I like being at the EGU, it is still the go-to-conference every year, because of its interdisciplinary opportunities. After day one it was alright, and it went rather smoothly. Let’s hope that next year will have again some form of real Vienna in it, as I miss to meet friends and other scientists in person. See you next year, wherever it will be.

IMSC 2019: The final day

With a half day of talks the IMSC 2019 ended today in Toulouse. It was again a quite warm day and not far away the record for the recorded french temperature was broken today. So it was fitting that the final day started with event attribution talks and covered among others heat waves and their attribution to climate change. The next session was the final parallel session and I stayed in the event attribution session. It addressed more events and discussed the limits of these techniques.

After lunch the conference officially ended at it was time to look back at the past days here in southern France. The conference was well organised and fulfilled the expectations. Good food, good location, interesting scientific content. The main topics were extremes and detection and attribution. It blocked quite a big chunk of the conference and pushed the other topics for my taste a bit too far into a corner. Biggest issue in the verification and forecast evaluation was the handling of uncertain observations. Apart from that the conference covered good statistical practice, some talks about data and many good discussions about statistical topics. So it was fun to join this conference again, even with the very hot weather. So let’s see where the enxt conference will be, in three or something years.

IMSC 2019: My presentation

The fourth day of the IMSC 2019 was the day when the heat wave finally hit Toulouse with full force. Around 40 deg C was what the temperature measurements told us and it felt a bit overwhelming. The morning started again with plenary sessions and talks about uncertainty separation and down-scaling. Afterwards followed the poster session in a tent outside, and it got warmer and warmer over time as the wind was not as strong as in the last days.

After lunch the parallel sessions for the day started and I chose the one on forecast evaluation. The first part was reserved for the development of new verification procedures and I had my own talk in this section. It went alright, I presented two new skill scores basing on the EMD and demonstrated it at different seasonal prediction applications. The second half of the session was on the application of verification procedures and showed many different fields.

With the end of the talks it was time for the social events. The choice was either a wine tasting on a ship or a walking tour through town. I chose the latter one and it was a challenge to always find shade to get not too warm in the sunshine. Tomorrow will be the last day and the weather will still be warm enough to be a challenge.

IMSC 2019: Halftime and the heat wave is coming

The third day is over at the IMSC 2019 in Toulouse and it was a day full of presentations. The first session was on the interaction of humans with climate and Space-time statistics. Main topics where the construction of indices to communicate severeness of climate related hazards to the experts and public and the transition of weather regimes. It was followed by talks about Detection and Attribution, another main topic at this conference. A interesting topic was the influence of the view of a scientist on the statistical results, which highlighted the subjectivity of statistics.

After lunch, which happened to be inside for the first time this week, due to the weather outside (I assume more thanks to the windy conditions, rather than the hot temperatures), the conference went again into parallel sessions. I switched between the space-time statistics sessions and long-term D&A, which covered among others the complex uncertainty structures of regression models and the classification of weather regimes.

Tomorrow will be a challenging day. So we expect something around 40 degrees and there will be a poster session and I will give my own talk. So it will certainly be exciting. Oh and not to forget, some outside activity is planned in the evening, in this heat certainly a special experience.