March 2021 OES Beacon

From the Vice President for Workshops & Symposia – a transition year

Fausto Ferreira, Vice President for W&S

Remembering those times of face-to-face meetings (OCEANS’18 Kobe).

In December 2020, I was elected VP for W&S to complete the mandate of Philippe Courmontagne until the end of 2021. First of all, I ought to thank the previous VP for W&S and recognize his work in raising the level of our workshops and conferences, including navigating the waters of the complex pandemic year of 2020.

Philippe oversaw the transformation of some conferences to virtual events (e.g., AUV 2020), the cancellation of others and the postponement of several conferences from 2020 to 2021.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting the world, 2021 will be a transition year. While some of the conferences are moving to a full virtual event, others are considering hybrid or potentially face-to-face meetings.

By the time this newsletter is published, we will already have run (successfully I am confident) Underwater Technology 2021. This symposium took an innovative approach in these unprecedented times. Recognizing the value of a full face-to-face meeting, the organizers decided to postpone the conference to 2023 and implement a new concept of a virtual event. In 2021, an underwater video contest is taking place instead of a traditional conference with paper presentations. Attendees can vote on the best video (that can be technical or not) and a final event will present the winners. Videos do not need to be related to a technical presentation, thus promoting creative forms of presenting research work. A special award for the best student video will also be given in the final award ceremony. Affordable registration fees ensure wide participation. This novel approach keeps the community engaged and allows for the presentation of the latest developments without the constraints of setting up a full virtual conference.

For the remainder of the year, there are several workshops/conferences in preparation. These include among others, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Forum (ASOF) 2021, the China Ocean Acoustics (COA) 2021 and the Underwater Communications and Networking (UCOMMS) 2021. All these conferences were initially forecast for 2020 but have been postponed to 2021, hoping for better times. These conferences are scheduled for the second semester of 2021, and while there may be a possibility of having attendees on-site, all conferences are considering having a virtual component. I encourage you to regularly visit each conference website for updates on the mode and schedule of events. As VPWS, I have started having calls with the Local Organizing Committees (LOC) to ensure planning is under way and contingency plans have been made to quickly adjust to the global situation. While there is still a lot to learn, we can leverage on the experience of other LOCs that organized full virtual events in 2020.

My priority for this year will then be two-fold. On one side, work with the LOCs of planned conferences to ensure that these events will explore the best option according to their ambitions, resources, and health and safety concerns. On the other side, I will look into the future and lay ground for future conferences that may need to include a virtual component for the time being and in the near future. This priority will be materialized in the update of the current Guidelines for the organization of Workshops & Symposia to reflect the virtual/hybrid world and the proliferation of smaller, topic online meetings.

Online meetings have become more and more popular and are an opportunity to keep our membership engaged and provide high quality technical information to our members and the wider audience while waiting for the return to the so-wished face-to-face meetings. I will work with Vice President for Technical Activities and all the members of the Executive Committee, Administrative Committee and any interested volunteer to help organize online events and define guidelines for the implementation of such events, taking into account the recent guides and tips from IEEE for hybrid and virtual events.

Collectively, we would like to take the opportunity to create more conferences in emerging topics and addressing regional areas less represented in the past, taking advantage of the virtual world and leveraging on our Chapters and Technical Committees. Similarly, collaborations with other societies and co-sponsorships reflecting mutual benefits will keep being explored and possibly expanded. If you have suggestions on how to improve current workshops or proposals to introduce new ones, please contact me at

Remembering those times of face-to-face meetings (OCEANS’18 Kobe).