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  • Post-corona KSC academic conference finds answer in hybrid
  • by An, Kyung-Jin | translator Byun Kyung A | Jul 8, 2020 05:37am
Interview on KSC Secretary General Kang Seokmin and Academic Director Gwon Hyeon Cheol
 ▲ (From left) KSC Secretary General Kang Seokmin, Academic Director Gwon Hyeon Cheol and Head of Convention Service team at Gyeongju Hwabaek International Convention Center, Park Seo-Joon.

The Korean medical academy scene also took a hit from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Still not contained COVID-19 pandemic had affected the spring academic conference and other events, which left the academic event coordinators in a tight spot.

So what is it like to have an academic conference in the day and age of ‘Post-coronavirus?’

The executives of Korean Society of Cardiology (KSC) say they found the answer in ‘hybrid.’ They concluded both online and offline events have to be simultaneously conducted to continue exchange academic findings and network while joining the movement to stop the spread of COVID-19.

KSC Secretary General Kang Seokmin (Cardiovascular Department at Severance Hospital) and Academic Director Gwon Hyeon Cheol (Cardiology Division at Samsung Medical Center) at ‘2020 Annual Spring Scientific Conference of KSC with Affiliated Cardiac Societies’ claimed, “Simultaneously convening offline and online events would become the standard style of academic conferences post-coronavirus.” The academic society intends to share the tips they have learned from organizing the spring conference with other societies and to overcome the tough time together.

◆From special guideline to simulation, a month in making

Only a month ago, KSC had decided to convene the annual spring conference in the first week of July at Gyeongju Hwabaek International Convention Center.

Considering a large number of frontline healthcare providers of COVID-19 response had to participate, the society had internal dispute over having a complete virtual event. But some argued back it would diminish the level of networking and academic exchange and result in long-term loss. The executives pondered on the subject and finally found the solution; a hybrid event with an offline event strictly following the disease control guideline combined with the real-time presentation streaming online.

Professor Kang Seokmin elaborated, “The annual spring conference is a massive scale of an event, where seven academic societies, including KSC, Korean Heart Rhythm Society, Korean Pediatric Heart Society, Korean Society of Heart Failure, Korean Society of Interventional Cardiology, Korean Society of Cardiometabolic Syndrome, Korean Society of Echocardiography and Korean Society of Lipid and Atherosclerosis, come together. As the participation of world renowned scholars was canceled, the invited professors were disappointed in losing a chance to expand their network.”

 ▲ Event staffs usher in conference participants to a lecture hall after checking their body temperature

The executive committees of KSC had to struggle for a month to make an exemplary event amid COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Kang personally drafted the COVID-19 Response Guideline and edited eight times. The final version of the guideline reviewed by Korean Society of Infectious Diseases (KSID) defined the infection of COVID-19 and specified the floor plan and entrance management of the conference venue, management of the venue surroundings, management of relevant staffs, enforcement of disease prevention rules in participating members and operating the conference, and management of the event planning agency staffs.

A day before the conference, the professor convened the convention center service team to conduct a simulation on contacting the public health center in case of spotting a suspected case of COVID-19 and transferring the patient.

Professor Kang said, “The number of pre-registered members exceeded 1,700, and 900 of them participated in the morning of the first day. Keeping the safe distances in the seating arrangement, many had to listen to the live-streamed lecture from the lounge area,” and “We are grateful for the event staffs and participants complying with the guideline and safely and successfully closing the event.”

◆Hybrid academic conference with advantages of online and offline events to become a norm

While the executive directors were busy organizing a safe event, academic committees were also hectic as well. They collected presentation material and voice or video recording of the foreign speakers unable to participate, and set up an online streaming system for the academic society members to conveniently use.

By analyzing the pros and cons of international and domestic conferences convened online recently, the committees were able put up the basic framework of the event. As the spring conference was postponed over two months, the committees also simultaneously worked on the fall conference to come in three months time. As a result, they developed a system to watch lectures streaming from seven conference halls by simply clicking on a Smartphone app. The voice and video recordings from the foreign speakers were played from respective conference halls in a set order.

 ▲ Professor Kang demonstrates the real-time streaming lecture video on a Smartphone app
Professor Gwon Hyeon Cheol explained, “According to respective hospital guideline, many of the members are not allowed to participate in the conference unless they are speaker, mediator, or a panel,” and “Insisting on convening a virtual event would bring a serious impact on academic activity and networking.” The professor says the hybrid style of academic conference that fully embraces the advantages of both online and offline events would get more prevalent in the future.

Professor Gwon also stated ultimately the executives of those academic societies hosting an academic event and the government should contemplate together on further improving the hybrid academic conference on more intricate level. The professor plans to create a system that enables real-time two-way feedback for question and answer session with the foreign speakers for the next conference.

Professor Gwon advised, “The government also seems to have a lot to think about on setting the sponsorship standard as the conferences are changing their forms. Hopefully, they would also talk of setting detailed standard for the hybrid style with both online and offline events,” and “They should seek the most idealistic platform together with the relevant stakeholders to reflect their opinions”.
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