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Conference Organising in Extraordinary Times

Conference Organising Committee

The ACDM Conference Committee starts planning the content for the next Annual Conference a few weeks after the previous year’s conference ends. ACDM20 Conference held in Dublin was held just before coronavirus restrictions were put in place in the UK and went ahead with a mix of in person and virtual attendees. The Committee had to be flexible and accommodate for last minute format changes as speakers and delegates were unable to travel as companies introduced travel restrictions as well as introducing safety and hygiene protocols.

We started to plan for ACDM21 in Edinburgh back in April ’20 when the world was still trying to understand the global COVID pandemic, hoped that the lockdown restrictions would be lifted after several weeks, and the world would go “back to normal”. ACDM21 was approximately 11 months away and we should be back to in person events, right?

The usual Call for Abstracts was announced, and a good response was received. The usual timeframe is for the Conference Committee to review the abstracts and confirm presenters in early autumn, at this stage, we were still optimistic that the Conference would go ahead as planned, however following the announcement of the second national lockdown in November 20 the decision was made to delay ACDM21 from March to September with the same content that was already being worked on.

The Conference Committee continued with the regular planning meetings, assessing and re-evaluating the COVID situation as we went on. The coronavirus restrictions were due to be lifted in early July 21, and we were hopeful that the event would go ahead as planned. Sponsors and exhibitors were being booked, nominations for the ACDM Annual Awards were opened and the planning was in full swing. The early bird bookings were opened in April 21 and although people were expressing an interest in attending, the travel situation was not clear, and many companies had a ‘wait and see view’ regarding travel for work purposes. With the delay in the restrictions being lifted in the UK and the uncertainty of what the world would look like in September, the travel restrictions and potential quarantine for our overseas delegates, the decision was made to switch to a shorter hybrid event. The ACDM Board did not want to delay the conference further as we have commitments to the members, such as the conference itself, delivering engagement to the members and the requirement to hold an AGM annually. ACDM21 became ACDMi (ACDM Interactive)!

Delegant, ACDM Event Organisers, suggested a venue in Manchester which would be ideal for an in person event along with live streaming for virtual attendees. The planning for ACDMi began in June and the decision was made to have COVID as a theme. There had been so many changes to the way that data management was being conducted; the impact of COVID on ongoing trials, the need for quick set ups and database locks for COVID vaccine and COVID treatment trials. There was the potential for many interesting presentations. We looked at the abstracts that we had previously received to see which would fit the theme and targeted areas of interest and also looked at what we wanted to do more of from previous conferences, such as the interactive panel.

The ACDMi logo included a bee, the worker bee is a symbol of Manchester and the industrious city built by the workers (cotton trade). Another thing that Manchester is known for is music – Joy Division, Oasis, the Stone Roses, The Smiths, Elbow and James to name a few. A recent album title from James was ‘Living in Extraordinary Times’, this was how the last 18 months or so had felt – these really were extraordinary times.

The program for the conference was coming together, even though there were still some unknowns with many companies still having restricted business travel. The aim was for all presenters to present in person for the best experience for the in-person attendees. This led to some last-minute changes to the program and the Conference Committee are very grateful to the presenters that attended, especially those that stepped in at the last minute. With many company’s travel restrictions still in place, we were unsure until the last few days which members of the Committee and Board could attend. We were still busily planning the last-minute arrangements on 1st September 21 (last conference committee meeting) and arranging logistics such as ‘who will activate the slido polls’, timing cards and session chairs.

The ACDMi went ahead on 6th and 7th September, with a pre-conference ‘Cocktails at Cloud 23’ event hosted by Sam Parnell from eClinical Solutions. Cloud 23 is the cocktail bar at the Hilton and offers fantastic views of the city. ACDMi began with an introduction from Ian Pinto (Chair of the Board) and a demo hour from Formedix. A delicious lunch was followed by the COVID-19 Trials Interactive Panel expertly hosted by Richard Young from Veeva. Full details of the program are available here. Presentations on conducting clinical trials whilst in the middle of a global threat and taking part in a COVID-19 vaccine trial followed, the day ended with the AGM which was opened for virtual attendance for ACDM members that were not registered for ACDMi.

The evening got underway with a drinks reception, followed by the ACDM 2021 Awards which were also streamed live for the virtual attendees. Representatives from sponsors of ACDMi, ChilliPharm, eClinical and SGS kindly announced the winners. Details of the winners and runners up can be found here. Dinner was then served with plenty of opportunity to network.

The second day opened early with a demo hour on the Veeva EDC, followed by an inspirational presentation from Mary Ryan from Penlon about how they rose to the UK Ventilator Challenge. The Data Science Unit from Manchester University then presented the challenges of working with COVID-19 data. The final two presentations were a COVID-19 case study from Bionical Emas and Risk-based quality management during the pandemic from CluePoints. All registered delegates have access to the recordings and pdfs of the presentations, it is also possible to get access to these through the ACDM website for anyone that couldn’t attend. The content is truly worth a watch.

After an extraordinary 18 months, the ACDM Conference Committee succeeded in organising a successful interactive event for both online and in person attendees. Feedback from the virtual attendees on the live stream has been well received, and verbal feedback who attended the event in person was that it was so good to meet people and network.

The Conference Committee are extremely proud of the event which was truly organised in extraordinary times. ACDM22 is being held in Edinburgh on 13-15th March, the Call for Abstracts has just opened and we very much look forward to seeing you there.

Find out more here

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