Brain Twitter Conference #brainTC

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We are organising the first Twitter conference in neuroscience on the 20th of April! We are very excited about this; it felt like a fun idea, and now as we are putting the event together, we start to see more concretely how cool this event will be! Brain Twitter Conference #brainTC is a “normal” scientific conference, but organised in Twitter, instead of a university lecture hall, a hotel, or an exhibition centre. 

Call for abstracts open until 31st March!

The call for abstracts is currently open, you can submit yours here. Abstracts will be reviewed, and a conference programme put together. Then keynotes as well as regular presentations will take place, there’s going to be questions and discussion, and finally proceedings will be published. Some parts work identically to a traditional conference, some are slightly different due to the special “venue”.

The first stage is pretty standard: researchers submit abstracts describing scientific work, and we as organisers review them to ensure they are of high scientific quality. Then we’ll make a one-track programme, grouping accepted presentations by theme. Also, as presenters can be from any time zones, we will take that into account when planning who presents when.

Presentations themselves take the form of a series of six tweets. Each presentation gets a 15- minute time window during which the presenter will send those 6 numbered tweets. As you can attach pictures, video, and even links, you can get a lot of content into those 6 x 140 characters. Of course it is not easy, but neither is making a good poster. But, as with Twitter in general, the limited space boosts creativity; a hard limit means you will have to think about what is really essential in your work, and that of course is a useful exercise in itself. All presentations and the discussion that follows happens at the conference hashtag #brainTC (or #braintc, hashtags are case insensitive). As Twitter nowadays can organise those tweets that are replies to earlier tweets into conversation threads, things should remain relatively easy to follow. During the conference, our Aalto Brain Centre Twitter account will serve as the “chair”, and will tweet out all relevant announcements and other practical info. The presentations will be collected into proceedings, and the abstracts will also be available online during the conference.

Why organise a conference in Twitter?

The Twitter conference as a format is exciting for a number of reasons. One aspect that makes me particularly proud are the keynote tweeters. We have a lineup that any neuroscience conference could be proud of: Uta Frith, Riitta Hari, @Neuro_Skeptic and the Human Brain Project! How cool is that!?

So, professors emerita Uta Frith and Riitta Hari have headlined many neuroscience conferences, and we are really happy that they agreed to also give this new conference format a go. Then, we thought we should include someone who we probably couldn’t get if the conference weren’t in Twitter, and so there is the neuroscientist who has decided to operate online under a pseudonym; the excellent and famous @Neuro_Skeptic! Finally, we thought that as in Twitter, there are many  labs and projects present, in addition to individuals, we could ask one of them to give a keynote. And so we asked the biggest and the most beautiful, the Human Brain Project, if there’d be interested. So, so cool for them to say yes! So all the keynotes are probably going to be quite different, and this is great, as we want to see variety and creativity!

Organising a conference in Twitter is also exciting because it removes the hassle and costs of travel, as well as the negative impact all that jetting around the globe has on the environment. Moreover, we hope this encourages participation from people who otherwise might not be able to take part in conferences, or would find it difficult due to them being noisy places full of people. Twitter conferences will of course not replace traditional conferences, and the face-to-face conversations they afford. But they can be one form of meeting new colleagues, sharing our work, and getting feedback for it. Last but not least, as Twitter conferences take place in public, they are an opportunity to reach people outside the science bubble. The theme of the conference, “Neuroscience making an impact”, reflects all this, in addition to referring to the scientific content.

Standing on the shoulders of giants

We are the first Twitter conference on neuroscience, but not the first Twitter conference. I first learned of Twitter conferences when a friend of mine tweeted about a Twitter conference on public archaeology. They were inspired by two successful Twitter conferences organised by seabird researchers, and we have taken their conference as our model, as well.

It will be exciting to see what comes out of all this, and what kinds of presentations we’ll see on the day! If you are intrigued, join us! You can just check the hashtag #brainTC on the day, or, if you’d like to receive the program and other info about the conference, you can sign up as a participant. Or, if you’d like to present something, submit an abstract! And if you have any questions either about the scientific or the technical side of things, you can contact us by comment on this post, or at Twitter. And do check the help-section of our website.

See you soon in Twitter!

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