A Successful 15th EVN Symposium
by Denise Gabuzda (University College Cork, Ireland)
The 15th EVN Symposium & Users' Meeting was originally scheduled for 2020. After cancelling this event in 2020 and holding an online “mini-symposium” in 2021, the full 15th European VLBI Network Symposium was finally held as a “blended” or “hybrid” meeting on 11-15 July 2022.
Seventy-one in-person participants at University College Cork, Ireland, were joined by 42 participants online. The setup ensured that online participants could hear all speakers clearly, and that online presentations were visible on a large screen and were clearly audible. Both in-person and online participants could ask questions; the main limitation of the technical setup was that some participants in Cork spoke too softly to be heard well by those online, but this was a relatively minor issue.
The blended aspect of the symposium enabled the participation of those for whom it would otherwise have been impossible for logistical or personal reasons, and it was overall considered a success. There were in-person and online participants from throughout Europe, as well as such far-flung locations as East Asia, Australia and South Africa. The online option was particularly appreciated by the 9 Russian participants, who would have been completely unable to participate otherwise; several expressed warm thanks that they were not excluded from this biennial event of the European radio astronomy community for political reasons.
The scientific programme included 48 contributed talks, 12 review talks and 26 posters. The social programme included a wine and cheese poster reception; the symposium dinner, complete with live Irish music and some spontaneous dancing; a free afternoon, giving time to explore the area in and around Cork City; a football match and an evening of international folk dancing. Several participants commented that they felt this EVN Symposium had successfully captured the informal, community atmosphere associated with EVN Symposia in the past.
The 14th EVN Symposium, held fully in person in Granada in 2018, had more than 150 participants. The fact that the 15th EVN Symposium had only 113 participants, even with an online option, suggests that the influence of the Covid-19 pandemic is still being felt. Nevertheless, this blended symposium represents a very positive movement towards repairing damage to the fabric of the community of radio astronomers in Europe and farther afield due to the isolation imposed by the pandemic.
The proceedings of the 15th EVN Symposium will be published in the online journal “Proceedings of Science”.