Reflections on ESERA 2015 from the local organizing committee.
After months of intense work and preparation, both with the programme itself and the local practical organization, it was exhilarating when 31 August finally arrived and the ESERA 2015 week was upon us. As the conference officially started on Monday afternoon with the opening ceremony and the first keynotes’ presentation, we were expecting to have a quiet morning with few on-site registrations. However, very quickly we experienced a flood of eager participants lining up in front of the registration desk and the week started at a high speed and continued so throughout! Already on Monday we could sense from the general atmosphere that the participants were excited to be in Helsinki, share their contributions at ESERA 2015, and strengthen their existing networks of professionals and make new acquaintances. The conference site personnel quickly shared this same feeling with us and they were amazed and pleased at the positive energy that all the participants brought together. For the first time in an ESERA conference we encouraged the keynote speakers to plan beforehand the social interaction side of their presentations. Not only the organizers, but it seemed that a great part of the audience enjoyed the possibility to send questions beforehand, follow the interaction of two keynote speakers, and use Twitter and Flinga online during the keynotes. We did our very best to provide you with a week that would be fulfilling both research-wise and getting to know a bit of Helsinki. Throughout the week we were touched by the positive feedback that the participants so generously gave us face-to-face.
Although on Friday afternoon our general feeling was extremely thankful, happy (and perhaps even of relief) for the successful week we had had, we realize that the week was not without challenges, some of which had brought irritation and frustration among some participants. The days were long and most sessions had a large number of parallel sessions of which to choose the presentations that were the most interesting and benefitting to each. With such a large number of presentations and presenters, it is impossible to schedule all sessions in a way that would please all. The Science community consists of professionals of different lengths of experience, working from diverse settings with different customs of giving presentations and diverse ways of even doing research. Thus there is bound to be heterogeneity in the presentations, also in quality. The ESERA community functions in English as a lingua franca and as speakers and users of a language that most of us did not grow up with, we also have to be supportive of improving each other and ourselves as listeners and presenters. We thank you for the constructive and even critical feedback that we’ve received through the online questionnaire. We will study the feedback meticulously in the coming weeks and we hope that the next ESERA conference organizers in Dublin, Ireland will be able to utilize it for the benefit of every participant in order to improve the overall quality of the conference.
We want to thank each and every one of the participants at ESERA 2015 for all your contributions during the week. You made the conference to be what it was. We also want to thank our wonderful group of student assistants who were just as committed and excited to being part of ESERA 2015 as the local organizing committee. We wish you all success in your future research and look forward to soon receiving your papers for the eProceedings. And of course we look forward to meeting you again in Dublin in 2017!
Best wishes on behalf of the local organizing committee,
Jarkko Lampiselkä, Jari Lavonen and Kaisa Hahl