Virtual Plenary 15 Recap

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30 April 2020 371 reads

We’ve now had a couple of weeks to regroup after our first Virtual Plenary meeting and are excited to share with you some highlights and feedback regarding the event. The comments noted below, as well as additional feedback received during the past month, is being collected and incorporated into a final assessment report which will be made available to the public in the coming weeks.


  • With the Plenary spanning three weeks (18 March – 10 April 2020), 34 breakout sessions took place (with about a third of these running two separate sessions to cover more time zones, leading to a total of 45 sessions).
  • Our two keynote presenters initially scheduled for our face-to-face meeting in Melbourne were kind enough to present virtually, attracting in total more than 200 attendees in total. Ms Priyanka Pillai from the University of Melbourne’s presentws on "The Role of Data in a Rapid and Coordinated Response to Infectious Disease Outbreaks" and Dr Cathy Foley, Chief Scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) gave a presentation titled "Thinking about Data Differently – If Data is the 'New Oil' will it Mean We Will Have Regrets in Decades to Come?".  Both recordings are available from the Virtual Plenary Programme page.
  • About 30 members participated in our Virtual Poster session, and we would like to offer special congratulations to Katarzyna Biernacka, the winner of the VP15 Poster Session who received the most votes from our virtual attendees, for her poster titled ‘The Missing Data - The Relationship Between Legal Requirements and Open Research Data’.
  • On the final day of the Plenary, more than 30 people attended our virtual coffee sessions, which offered our members some informal time for collaboration and networking.

Feedback Received from our Members:

  • Breakout sessions and keynote addresses were of high quality and usefulness
  • Zoom technology worked well with little technical difficulties, and the sessions were well coordinated
  • Scheduling sessions for multiple time zones was greatly appreciated.
  • Privacy policies should have been communicated more clearly to attendees.
  • A newcomers session on how to use the technology for participants and chairs may be helpful for future meetings of this format.
  • Some session chairs made use of additional technologies (pre-recorded videos, mentimeter, speed dating, breakout room functionality, etc.), which on the whole, were received very well. 
  • Attendees mostly missed the social networking aspect of the meeting typically experienced during the face-to-face plenaries
  • Overall, most attendees were pleased with the end result, especially considering the fast turn-around-time to make the event happen.

Feedback from Session Chairs:

  • Attendance was excellent, with over 900 individuals registering for at least one session, and many sessions having anywhere between 70-100 attendees.
  • The majority of presenters had no issues when submitting a session for the virtual meeting and were pleased at the quick turn-around-time for approval.
  • For those unfamiliar with Zoom, more training would have been appreciated by the meeting leads.
  • Online instructions about the session submission process and technology should have been shared more prominently with the presenters.
  • Many session chairs reported a gain in momentum for their groups from the sessions.
  • All presenters (100%) who completed the survey stated they would be willing to chair a virtual session in the future.

Secretariat Perspective:

  • The event went well, but more time for planning for both the organizers and the session leads for the next meeting of this type would be ideal.
  • A team effort was essential to make this event a success. 
  • Technical support needs to be adequate and coordinated well in advance of the event. 
  • Best practices and technical instructions for session leads and attendees should always be made available before the event.
  • Participants would have appreciated more opportunities for social networkingand informal collaboration.
  • It would have been helpful to incorporate more opportunities for social networking among attendees. 
  • It is important to understand the costs and benefits for such a virtual meeting.
  • The Virtual Plenary provided an extremely valuable learning experience for RDA.

On behalf of the Plenary 15 Organising Committee, thank you. Because of your involvement and support, RDA is looking forward to hosting more meetings of this type in the future (see P16 announcement in the April newsletter).