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ICNCT-19 review and personal impressions

by Aleksandr Makarov

As you know, this year, for the first time, the International NCT Congress was held entirely online. Participants and organizers believed until the last moment that it would still be possible to hold the –°ongress in person on the hospitable land of Spain. Back in May we wrote about this in our Newsletter # 6 and in June in our Newsletter #7. However, the difficult situation with the spread of COVID-19 did not give ICNCT-19 a chance and organizers had to urgently switch to a 100% online format.
In this article, I would like to review the past event from the perspective of an ordinary participant and share my impressions of a new online format. Perhaps my article will be useful for those who for some reason could not attend the –°ongress.
The Congress was held from September 27th to October 1st at the Meetmaps.com online conference venue. The site provided registered participants with several options:

  • Hall. Shared space similar to a real conference.
  • LIVE Streaming. The page with an online broadcast taking place at the moment and a chat room.
  • Agenda. Schedule of plenary talks and saved videos of past performances (videos were available until October 23).
  • Speakers. In this section, one could explore profiles of speakers containing their photos and brief CVs.
  • Networking. All participants were presented here, anyone could send a message to anyone via the site interface. The message was duplicated to the email.
  • Oral & Poster Sessions. Pre-recorded oral presentations and uploaded posters were available here.
  • Sponsors. Conference sponsors page represented: TAE Life Sciences, Neuboron and PerkinElmer.
  • Exhibitors. On this page one could find a nice video about BNCT made by TAE Life Sciences.
  • Documents. The ICNCT-19 Book of abstracts can be found on this page.
  • Videos. There were two videos from CTF (these videos are also available on our YouTube channel).
  • App. The page for downloading the streaming app Eventsbox on a mobile phone using QR code.

At the beginning of the first day of the Congress, Chair of the ICNCT-19 Javier Praena and President of ISNCT Ignacio Porras gave opening remarks at the opening ceremony. Then the Hatanaka Award winners Fong-In Chou and Leena Kankaanranta gave their lectures. After that there was a time for plenary talks, there were 15 of them during the conference from Monday to Thursday. Each lecture lasted for about 30 minutes. All plenary lectures were pre-recorded, but authors answered questions online immediately after each lecture. Questions could be asked via chat or through a special section Questions and Answers, which was used by the participants very actively.
On Thursday, after the end of plenary lectures, the results of the Fairchild Award were announced (see the article). 

Also the winners of the Medal given by the Journal of Applied Radiation and Isotopes (JARI) and the Hubbell prize (formerly known as the JARI Enterprise Award) were  named: Saverio Altieri and Hiroaki Kumada, respectively.

On Friday, the last day of the Congress, non-public meetings of the Executive Board (EB) and Board of Councilors (BOC) took place. The conference ended with the General Assembly, which could be attended by all registered participants. It was organized through the Zoom platform and there were 65 people online at the same time. At the General Assembly Ignacio Porras summed up the results of the conference:

  • 230 participants
  • 15 plenary lectures
  • 83 oral presentations
  • 50 posters

The news from EB ISNCT was announced by Silva Bortolussi: because of COVID-19, it was proposed to postpone the election of EB and BOC members until 2023 and to create an independent ISNCT budget. The head of the Communication Task Force (CTF) Agustina Portu made a presentation about the numerous CTF activities over the past year: ISNCT.net, social networks, Newsletters, YouTube channel, etc.

Then Iiro Auterinen spoke about the YBNCT held in Helsinki in 2019. Ignacio Porras then announced the next YBNCT, which will take place on July 11-13, 2022 in Novosibirsk, Russia. Finally, all participants enjoyed a video from the organizers of the ICNCT-20, which will be held on September 3-9, 2023 in Krakow, Poland. At the end, Ignacio Porras thanked all the participants and closed the Congress.

As for me, I think this form of online conference has its pros and cons. On the positive side, I can note the convenience of viewing lectures and presentations: without leaving home, at any time you can turn on the recorded lecture, pause or repeat the fragment you are interested in. The disadvantages of course include the difficulty of asking questions and the lack of live communication. Subjectively, I could characterize this new experience as positive, but I am convinced that the online format can never replace the traditional format of physical presence at the conference. In my opinion, the best conference format could be a hybrid: so that everyone can meet face-to-face and communicate live, but at the same time lectures and presentations are available in digital form. I hope that the COVID-19 pandemy will soon go off, and we can meet together in person at the next BNCT conference!