(Guest post by Shir Cohen and Mouna Safir)
The 34th International Symposium on Distributed Computing (DISC 2020) was held on October 12-16, 2020, as a virtual conference. As such, the opportunity for community members to get to know each other in an informal environment was lacking. To address this need, we arranged two types of virtual networking events. We hope that these events planted the seeds for many future collaborations and that there will be an opportunity for those involved to meet in person next time.
MoPS (Meet other Postdoc and Students) Sessions
To allow junior members of the community to get to know one another, we arranged MoPS sessions, which we have not seen done before. There were more than 50 participants who took part in the sessions, with representation from a host of countries throughout the world. Sessions were held in 10-time slots before, during, and after DISC. In each session, there would typically be 5 members representing a mixture of Bachelor’s students, Masters students, PhDs, postdocs, and others. Care was taken to include at least one postdoc or Ph.D. in each session so that Bachelors and Masters students might benefit from their experience. Groups were formed with the goal of allowing participants from different countries and institutions to share their experiences and research journeys with one another. Based on the feedback for this event, it would appear that that goal was met and the participants came away with more of a sense of community.
The Junior-Senior meetings were organized to provide an opportunity for junior researchers to meet with senior researchers. Fourteen sessions were conducted, where each one brought together one senior and 3-5 juniors. In these sessions, the juniors got a chance to interact with seniors in the field and profit from their experience. Discussions covered a variety of topics such as how to approach research, how to deal with the job market, or perhaps more personal concerns like work-life balance. We collected amazing feedback from the participants, who claimed that this was a fruitful and interesting experience.