AGYA successfully held its first of a kind online AGYA General Assembly Meeting on 9 - 10 July 2020. The joy of reunion was great, and AGYA members eagerly engaged in exploring new ways of communication and collaboration in different online formats.
The AGYA Annual Conferences take place twice a year, usually once in Germany and once in an Arab country, rotating locations annually. In addition to hosting core member activities like General Assemblies, Working Group meetings and Task Force meetings, the roving Annual Conferences also introduce members to different actors, institutions and locations in the host country’s academic, policy and cultural landscapes, which the members explore through teambuilding activities, training programs, scientific excursions and cultural events. Such activities spur peer-to-peer exchange and spark ideas for new collaborative research initiatives.
However, 2020 should turn out to be a rather unusual year. With the worldwide spread of COVID-19 in early March 2020, many international conferences had to be cancelled at short notice – so was the AGYA Annual Conference 2020 in Aachen/Jülich, which should have taken place from 23 - 25 March 2020.
In order to meet the members’ needs for networking and exchange despite the difficult conditions, AGYA managed to set up a self-hosted online communication platform. From 9 – 10 July 2020, AGYA held its first of a kind online General Assembly Meeting. Within the framework of this two half-day meetings, more than 40 AGYA members from Algeria, Egypt, Germany, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Saudi-Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates presented the results of their AGYA research projects and discussed ongoing as well as new collaborative initiatives, met in Task Forces, and also vividly discussed current and upcoming activities of the academy.
The joy among the participants of seeing their fellow AGYA members after this longer break was great, the atmosphere was excellent, and so was the internet connection (mostly). These virtual sessions even favoured the high number of attendees. AGYA member Dr. Lilia Romdhane, geneticist at the universities of Carthage and Tunis El Manar (Tunisia), knows why: ‘Although I much appreciate the warmth and familiar atmosphere at AGYA conferences, whose in-person interactions are necessary to forge relationships and build trust, this first online AGYA General Assembly Meeting clearly showed me that there are in fact important advantages of online formats in terms of inclusion. Factors like meeting spaces that are inaccessible to disabled scholars are sometimes challenging. Moreover, online meetings can be attended more easily timewise.’
Also the members of the AGYA Working Group Energy, Water and Environment highlighted the significant advantages of virtual conferences. They intend to cut down their own air travel to reduce their personal carbon footprint by organizing an international semi-virtual conference within AGYA to establish a best practice example of inclusive and highly interactive online conferences. Plans have already been made before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The conference 'Moving Ideas not Scholars: Online Conference on Climate Change and Climate Justice' will take place from 25-26 November 2020.
9 - 10 July 2020