In September, we sent all ISSEME members a poll with a few questions about our conferences, past and future.
For many of us, it was a busy time of the year (and the year before that had been fairly exhausting), so we are especially grateful to those of you who found the time to answer our questions.
For your information, you will find below a brief summary of the answers we received, with a focus on the most commonly shared opinions.
There were 83 respondents in total, fairly evenly split between people who attended ISSEME’s 2021 conference and people who did not.
Q1 If you did not attend ISSEME’s conference in 2021, could you tell us briefly why?
Overwhelmingly, most of the people who did not attend made that choice either because they already had too many other obligations (personal or work-related) or because the format of the conference was unappealing (too much time spent online that year already for many respondents; a few also mentioned the time difference or finding the multisite format confusing).
Q2 If you did attend, what did you appreciate the most about the conference?
Several respondents celebrated the quality of the papers and/or keynotes, but, most of all, respondents applauded the truly international nature of the conference, and the overall diversity of speakers, topics and approaches. The chance to interact with colleagues in a friendly, supportive and inclusive atmosphere was also much appreciated.
Q3 If you did attend, was there anything you disliked about the conference or feel could be improved next time?
Most people cited the online format, which limited social interactions, and the complications engendered by the time zones and multiple venues, though many granted that it had been handled as well as possible considering the constraints.
Q4 If you took part in the mentorship scheme during the conference, did you find it a positive and useful experience and do you have suggestions for improving the scheme?
11 respondents had taken part in the scheme, either as a mentor or a mentee, and all found it a very positive experience, with no suggestions for improvement.
Q5 Whether you attended ISSEME 2021 or not, what do you think about the possibility of occasionally having a fully online conference like this one in the future, instead of a traditional conference?
A significant minority of people wholeheartedly supported the notion for various reasons (environmental cost of traditional conferences, affordability & accessibility) while a similar proportion strongly opposed it, primarily because the whole point of a conference is to meet with colleagues, which is simply not the same online.
However, a majority of respondents have given more nuanced answers, suggesting that some consensus may be possible after all. Many people support the idea of finding a balance between in-person and virtual events, either through holding both alternatively or through holding hybrid events (see further below).
Q6 Whether you attended ISSEME 2021 or not, what do you think about the possibility of having a significant online component in our next conference (e.g. give the possibility to some scholars to present their paper & attend other papers remotely), even if most of it takes place in person?
Close to 90% of respondents are in favour of such an option, many enthusiastically so, but only provided the right balance is found between the two dimensions. On the one hand, it is important that the in-person event remains attractive and that there is an incentive to meet each other in person if possible; on the other hand, online participants should not be excluded from what makes a conference valuable.
It seems likely that some experimentation will be necessary before we can find the right formula.
Q7 If you want to take the opportunity of this survey to make other suggestions to improve the workings of our society, feel free to do so here.
Many respondents simply used that space to thank the board for their efforts.
Suggestions for improvement included:
– improve accessibility for low-budget scholars;
– more progress on the issues of racism and sex harassment;
– improve communication among members and between the board & members;
– give more space to pedagogy in the society’s activities.
If you want to share other suggestions, you don’t need to wait for the next survey: don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Executive Director or a board member at any time.