2021 JoVE Researcher Innovation Award Winner: Eric Hamlett ‘Adapting international research conferences to virtual web-based systems’

Raveena Khatri, JoVE Writer | 4 min read
Raveena Khatri, JoVE Writer | 4 min read

The 2021 JoVE Science Education and Research Innovation awards have paved the way for a series of blog posts highlighting how science educators, researchers and Librarians worldwide have used visual resources to support their remote efforts. We hope these blog posts will help find practical answers to the questions imposed while juggling online or hybrid formats.

This submission highlights the winning entry by 2021 JoVE Researcher Innovation Award winner Eric Hamlett, Assistant Professor & T21RS Communications Associate at the Medical University of South Carolina. Eric’s entry focuses on his experience with adapting an international meeting program to new web-based systems and social mechanisms.

The T21 Research Society was established in 2014 to facilitate interaction between Down syndrome (DS) researchers, clinicians, families, and individuals with DS. According to Eric, the rapid pace of progress demands effective communication between scientists and clinicians working in the field as recent advances in our understanding are now leading to novel clinical trials. He believes that communication is the key to translating the remarkable progress in Down syndrome research in the next decade. 

Eric says that T21RS began holding biennial international conferences to promote scientific exchange and communication on the most promising research at the basic, translational, and clinical levels. However, in 2020 events were canceled due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Despite this boom, virtual meetings were viewed as a “fast fix” until people could meet up in person again. He highlighted that T21RS learned that virtual conferencing tools offer many new opportunities that promote better communication at the conference. 

He highlights that the opportunity to move to virtual formats became a blessing in disguise and promoted participation and engagement from attendees that might not otherwise be able to attend due to travel constraints. He details how a team of scientists conquered the unique challenges of organizing a virtual event with an organized team approach through a virtual conference for 340 attendees from 25 countries. An innovative online program coupled with social media approaches and utilizing learnings from crafty usage tools created a successful virtual experience. 

Eric further elaborated that the new virtual tools made it possible to achieve a precise understanding of who consumed media, attended conferences and allowed great follow-up capacities that were not easy to track during in-person meetings. He affirms that Social media significantly enhanced communication engagements to unanticipated levels by making it possible to reach out to over 7,000 people in under a week. 

Eric says they implemented the first virtual cultural program performed by individuals with DS from India. This fantastic performance deserved prime-time attention and achieved enormous notoriety using our virtual technology and social media tools. 


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