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Conference on Complex Systems 2019: Co-organising a satellite session

Myself and two colleagues from the SBIDER group (Sophie Meakin & Ben Atkins, PhD students from the MathSys Centre for Doctoral Training) recently returned from the annually run Conference on Complex Systems (CCS). Organised by the Complex Systems Society, CCS is the biggest and most important annual meeting of the international complex systems community. For the 2019 edition, CCS took place at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore from 30th September - 4th October.

In addition to each of us presenting a contributed talk as part of the main conference parallel sessions, the three of us co-organised a satellite session on Challenges in Epidemiological Modelling.

What is a satellite session?

At CCS, two days out of the five day long scientific programme are dedicated to satellite sessions. A satellite session is usually a half-day session or full-day session, with each satellite organised and managed by its own committee, responsible for reviewing proposed contributions and working with its presenters

Content of our satellite session

Our half-day satellite session focused on a broad range of challenges that arise in the context of epidemiological modelling, taking advantage of the wide range of disciplines present at CCS 2019. We seeked to stimulate discussion across disciplines regarding, but not limited too, issues with data collection and curation, methodology and computation and the gap between research and policy, for both public and veterinary health scenarios.

For an overview of the programme, please see the event schedule. As a brief overview, following a short introduction the session was opened by a keynote talk from Dr Vittoria Colliza (INSERM, French National Institute for Health and Medical Research) on `How big does Big Data need to be? An epidemic modeling perspective’, followed by three short ignite style talks (5-10 minutes) and five long format talks (15 minutes + 5 minute Q&A).

CEM satellite session team photo
The organising team for the Challenges in Epidemiological Modelling satellite session: (from left to right) Ben Atkins, Sophie Meakin, Ed Hill

Event management

Being a multi-person organisational team, to benefit efficiency we wanted to make use of centralised systems that would ensure we all had access to relevant information and that each of us would be able to update pieces such as the event webpage.

We highlight here a couple of resources we used to deliver the event: (i) EasyChair for managing abstract submissions and author correspondence; (ii) GitHub Pages for establishing a web presence for the event.

EasyChair

EasyChair is a conference management system. The platform is designed to help conference/meeting organisers deal with the complexities associated with (but not limited to) collecting abstract submissions, manage the refereeing process (plus relaying of feedback to authors), sending emails to fellow organisers and authors, and production of the event programme and related materials.

For our satellite session, the features we utilised were soliciting abstracts and managing emails to authors.

GitHub Pages

GitHub Pages may be used to host a website directly from a GitHub repository.

As described within the About GitHub Pages section:

`GitHub Pages is a static site hosting service that takes HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files straight from a repository on GitHub, optionally runs the files through a build process, and publishes a website.’

We used the user site variant to host our satellite session webpage, though it should be noted that only one user site may be created for each GitHub account.

Post event reflections

We were pleased with the range of talks acquired, with speakers drawn from four continents. Additionally, we had encouraged participation from early career researchers and had been successful with our session contributors spanning the breadth of career stages. It was also great to witness networking across groups post-session.

Going forward, aspects warranting revision if organising another scientific meeting would include attempting to schedule an invited speaker per segment (in other words, one invited speaker before the designated break and the other invited speaker afterwards). Such an amendment would provide balance to the programme in terms of spacing of contributions from established researchers.

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