Q&A with the Vision Sciences Society on their Upcoming Virtual Meeting

June 4th, 2020

VSS surveyed members when considering hosting a virtual conference; what did you learn from the responses?

It was clear that there was a significant appetite for a virtual meeting, particularly among students and post-docs. That said, we also learned that not everyone thought they would participate.  Some are facing significant personal and professional challenges brought on by COVID-19, and others indicated that the thing they value most in our annual meeting is the opportunity to interact in person with their colleagues. Based on the survey, the VSS Board decided that in these challenging times, holding a virtual meeting was the best way to fulfill our primary mission of promoting intellectual exchange about and dissemination of vision research. To date, well over half of the originally scheduled presenters have registered to present at our virtual meeting (more than 800 presentations).

Any particular highlights in the program that we should not miss?

This year is the 20th anniversary of VSS.  The founders of the society, Ken Nakayama and Tom Sanocki, will open the first session of the meeting (June 19, 11:00 a.m. EDT) with remarks on the founding and early history of the society as well as the changes they see in the field over the past 20 years. There will also be a funding panel with NIH and NSF program offices, opportunities for students and post-docs to meet in small groups with faculty (“Meet the Professors”), student organized discussions, and the ever popular Canadian Vision Social.

Will sessions be recorded? Will it be possible to view presentations at a later date?

One important consideration for us is that members be able to participate according to their own schedule, and even if their internet connectivity does not support live streaming.  All of our live sessions will be recorded and posted. In addition, each presenter (both talk and poster) will upload their presentation. Each of those presentations will also include an asynchronous text chat box, and presenters are able to schedule online live presenter conferences where they can discuss their work in a live virtual format with attendees.  All presentations will be available for viewing through October 1, 2020.

Any advice for sister scientific societies planning virtual meetings for the fall?

Start planning as early as you can! We are finding that there are many small issues that need thinking through differently for the virtual meeting than for an in-person meeting.  For example, even something as simple as posting a schedule by day is complicated when attendees are distributed across multiple time zones, and where Tuesday in one place is Wednesday somewhere else. And we are having to learn about things like video formats, online platforms, and how to advise our members about how to make effective online presentations.

After our meeting, we would be happy to share our experience with other societies.

What do people need to do to attend the VSS virtual meeting?

The meeting is open without additional charge to all VSS 2020 members.  So all that is needed is to join the society.  Information about joining is available at https://www.visionsciences.org/membership/.