The year 2020 was heavily interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Most gatherings and scientific conferences were cancelled, including ISME18, which was scheduled to take place in Cape Town, South Africa. Moreover, this year also saw a global uprising in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement starting in the United States and worldwide demonstrations advocating for racial justice. These events encouraged a group of early career researchers from the #UnityInDiversity committee and organize an ISME #UnityInDiversity virtual summit, on November 11-12 2020. The goal of the summit was to highlight the excellent research of diverse microbial ecologists from underrepresented communities around the world.
It was an exciting two days with over 1000 registered attendees. We were treated to outstanding keynote talks from Janelle Thompson (Nanyang Technological University Singapore), Karine Gibbs (University of California Berkeley, and Harvard University, USA) and Thulani Makhalanyane (University of Pretoria, South Africa), which covered topics ranging from SARS-CoV-2 detection in wastewater, to polar microbiology, and bacterial collective behaviours. Other highlights included 21 invited talks, 10 short talks selected by anonymous judging of the best abstracts, and an interactive poster session. Thanks to our generous sponsors, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the ISME journals, we were able to award eight vouchers to cover the costs of open access publication fees in the ISME journals. Congratulations also go to our three main poster prize winners, Andrea Dos Santos, from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, Arthur Prudêncio de Araujo Pereira from the Federal University of Ceará, Brazil, and Martin Saraceno from the IEGEBA (Instituto de Ecología, Genética y Evolución de Buenos Aires, Universidad de Buenos Aires), Argentina.
The #UnityInDiversity virtual summit was attended by more than 750 participants, which clearly demonstrates the enthusiasm of our community for the unique format and focus of this summit. We hope that this event gives additional momentum to ISME’s continuing efforts to foster inclusivity at all levels and in all activities of the society. All talk recordings are available to ISME members and registered participants.
The organizing committee would like to sincerely thank ISME for sharing our vision, and for providing tremendous support during the planning and running of this meeting.
If you are interested in more facts and figures with regard to this meeting, please read the statistics report on the virtual summit #UnityInDiversity.