Research Ear, Hearing and Vestibular

ARO Midwinter Meeting succeeds in virtual format

Keiko Hirose, MD, leads a group of otolaryngology researchers in a Midwinter Meeting evaluation session via Zoom.

The lingering COVID pandemic forced the largest meeting of hearing scientists worldwide to adopt a completely virtual format. The Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO) had to move quickly to accomplish the feat which was viewed as very successful by participants.

Keiko Hirose, MD

ARO Past-President Keiko Hirose, MD, recently hosted a panel of otolaryngology researchers to discuss their impressions of the virtual event.

“Personally, I feel the event was a resounding success,” said Hirose. “The number of submitted abstracts dropped about 20%, but the number of registered attendees actually increased to the highest ever – about two thousand.”

When discussing whether future meetings should be a hybrid event (combination of in-person and virtual options), the panelists highlighted two concerns:

  1. The meeting would lose its opportunity for personal interaction that is the real driving force for advancing science.
  2. Too many registrants would choose to attend virtually, and the meeting would fail to meet the minimum number of on-site participants required by contracted venues.
Headshot of Mark Warchol, PhD
Mark Warchol, PhD

“The real value of ARO has always been the spontaneous in-person interaction,” said ARO council member Mark Warchol, PhD. “Those are lost with a virtual format.”

Overall, panelists considered the event a positive experience for a number of reasons:

  • Technical issues were extremely rare;
  • Recorded live presentations allowed later viewing and eliminated participants’ having to choose between two concurrent presentations;
  • Events like the annual awards ceremony were well produced and enjoyable in spite of the virtual format;
  • The online meeting likely allowed some students and trainees the opportunity to attend a national meeting that the cost of attending in person might hinder.

Dr. Hirose will convey the group’s evaluation and comments to ARO leadership. They are busy conducting a self-evaluation of the meeting and deciding on the format for next year’s event which is scheduled to be held in San Jose, California.