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12 Jan 2021

Conferences in a Digital World: EuFMD Open Session 2020 Moves Online

Associate Director, International Veterinary Health

The EuFMD Open Session (OS) takes place every 2 years and is one of the most important conferences on foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the calendar. The 2020 edition of the OS not only saw the inclusion of a range of FAST (Foot-and-mouth And Similar Transboundary) Diseases, including lumpy skin disease (LSD) and Peste Des Petites Ruminants (PPR), it also saw the event move online.

We had to take a gut-wrenching decision to not have our usual meeting with the FMD community and move it online. However, this opened new doors for us. Virtual ones in this case! The team transferred all the conference into a virtual reality area, complete with avatars, walk-in rooms with screens showing the proceedings and posters and connection with social media. I am quite pleased with the way we asked poster authors to summarize their talks in posters. We also moved away from Zoom specifically for the Open Session and we managed to have a good interaction with participants through the use of live boxes. The OS20 was focused on animal mobility for risk mapping, addressing risk change and forecast, vaccine security and critical resources for emergency management,  and resilience to long-term crises. The focus remained on FMD, but similar TADs were also considered. What the team and I missed most was meeting up in the evening to talk about the conference and informal chats with our colleagues. We did manage to connect with more than triple the usual number of participants, and we hope to keep this network up”.

Fabrizio Rosso, Deputy Executive Secretary of the EuFMD, who took the lead in organizing the Open Session.

Participants could easily move around the virtual conference site

The virtual event took place over several days in December 2020 with the concluding session coming up on 16th February 2021. The agenda featured speakers from all around the world talking on a wide range of topics according to the focus of the day:

  • 8th December 2020: Measuring animal movements and drivers for FAST risk mapping.
  • 10th December 2020: From risk to actions, make them happen.
  • 15th December 2020: Vaccine security and critical resources for emergency management.
  • 17th December 2020: Resilience to long term FAST crises. The importance of preparedness and planning to help ensure animal welfare, supply chain and business continuity in prolonged emergency responses.
  • 16th February 2021: Conclusions.
Missed out on any of the sessions? Watch the recordings: https://www.youtube.com/user/EUFMD/videos
Watch Dr Alasdair King discuss prioritization of vaccines:

The virtual conference center included rooms for live sessions, workshops, and posters. There were dedicated areas for the OS20 partners to share information about various initiatives, such as the emergence website, emergence podcast and disease animations (-some of these resources can be found in the emergence Knowledge Hub).

The organizing team at EuFMD deserve great credit for taking such a big step into the digital world. Such advancements are important because there is no doubt that technology has a significant role to play in reducing the impact of FAST diseases.

Banner image ‘Livelihoods @ risk in a FASTerworld’ by Enrique Anton.