virtual-call_120220As 2020 draws to a close it is a good time to reflect on what has probably been the strangest year that most of us have ever experienced. The word ‘unprecedented’ has been worn out by overuse and the word ‘lockdown’ has entered the dictionary and proven to be massively unpopular.

Many of us have experienced sickness, sadness, disruption and in some cases tragedy. For all of us the way we work has been certainly, and probably permanently, changed. For me personally, working in multinational, global teams, I have always had a plethora of conference calls but for many it is a new experience. Even for me, the conference calls have been added to by many more webinars and virtual conferences, seminars and user meetings, as well as the post-work online family calls, shopping, non-pub quizzes, wine tastings, even funerals.

For many of you, your laboratories and offices have been closed and then re-opened in significantly different formats. For us as at Thermo Fisher Scientific, pledged by our mission statement, “To enable our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer,” we have had to pivot to find new ways to keep helping you do your jobs. To that end, we have continued to develop and launch new hardware and software and have invested in new ways to keep two-way communication flowing with our users.

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In the dim and distant past of 2019, one of the best ways of enabling that communication was through informal chats during coffee breaks on an exhibition booth or in the conference bar at a scientific congress. This year, we have joined virtual conferences, developed our own virtual events, seminar tours and user meetings. We have always tried to include Q&A sessions, round-table discussion groups and chat rooms to recreate, as much as possible, the casual conversation that flows alongside the formal presentations.

What is an improvement in the virtual space is that previously, if you missed a conference, you had to wait months for the proceedings to be published, but now, all the presentations are available on-demand almost immediately and for long after the event. Many of our recent online events are good examples of this:

I hope you have a chance to review some of this material and find something in it that interests you and helps you in your research. As I write this, the news is looking hopeful for 2021. Like buses, we’ve waited a long time for a vaccine and then three come along at once. Hopefully later next year we’ll be able to return to some level of face-to-face events and if we meet at a conference, let’s make time for a drink and a chat to reminisce about the year that was and the future that is to come – until then, stay safe.