The ISTH Congress is one of the most important gatherings of scientists specialised in thrombosis, hemostasis and vascular biology. Thousands of researchers from all over the world attend this conference every year, where the most recent breakthroughs in haematology are discussed. As a postgraduate researcher, attending such a multitudinary conference is a great opportunity to:

  • Expand your knowledge in some areas of interest for your Masters or PhD 
  • Learn about laboratory or bibliographic search techniques to improve the results of your research
  • Develop your critical thinking by analysing other projects and making questions
  • Collect new ideas for your future research
  • Develop your presentation skills by listening to other scientists’ talks or giving your own
  • Boost your confidence to speak in front of a crowd, which is good practice for the thesis defence
  • Build professional relationships, that can lead to collaborations or even a job in the future

Although the ISTH is usually a face-to-face congress, in 2021 it was entirely online because of the COVID-19 restrictions. As a result, during this experience I have learned some of the pros and cons of online conferences versus face-to-face ones:

In some online conferences, talks are recorded and then played the day of the event. If you were to give a talk, there is the possibility of recording it several times, correcting and perfecting your speech. As a result, the clarity and time efficiency of the talks in virtual congresses is higher than averageInternet access is required to attend. If the internet connection is poor the quality of the whole experience decreases. However, if the organisers allow speakers to record their talks beforehand, most of these technical problems will be avoided
Even if they are live talks, most of them are recorded anyway and uploaded to the conference platform for later access. In fact, there are usually different purchase options for the same conference depending on the length of the access to the recorded content (one week, one month, one year…)On the one hand, if the talks are recorded people tend to speak about some old research projects they have already published because they fear plagiarism. On the other hand, if the seminars are live, the content is much more updated and frequently unpublished 
As there is no need for a venue neither catering, virtual congresses are usually well-priced. Also, there are no travel expenses for the attendants. The low cost of online conferences makes them accessible to a lot of researchers from different countries. During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the conferences have been online, so it is a good opportunity to attend to those that are expensive on a regular basisNetworking at virtual conferences is never as efficient as in face-to-face ones. During the poster and educational sessions, people tend to have their cameras off. Some specialised platforms allow you to play games with people from the conference after the talks of the day, but this is, in my opinion, not so enjoyable as playing games face-to-face or going for dinner

After attending this conference I would encourage any postgraduate students to live this experience, whether it is online or face-to-face. 

Maria’s attendance at this online conference was funded through the Manchester Metropolitan Graduate School’s Research Support Award. Find out more about the award and application process by visiting the PGR Development Moodle area.

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