Why we have moved ESOF to September - By Stefano Fantoni

Why we have moved ESOF2020 from July to September

The decision to postpone ESOF2020 Trieste by approximately two months has not been easy. Organisation of the event was well advanced and moving the starting dates means remodelling the programme, the locations, and the formats, and redefining commitments with sponsors, with the media, the scientific institutions, and the policymakers. A convenient alternative would have been to postpone everything by one year, waiting for better times. This option was discarded not just for concrete reasons, but above all due to the message we would have conveyed.

We do not have many certainties in these alienating, disconcerting and, unfortunately for some, tragic times, but if there is one, it is that this pandemic will radically change us, both as individuals and as a society. Shifting the event by three hundred and sixty-five days under the illusion of replicating it exactly would have been deceit and would have meant succumbing to the rhythm of the contagion, submitting to its logic. If, on the other hand, we will be facing a new world, we have to be ready to confront it and science must be present in the renewal this will entail. Trieste European City of Science for 2020 and ESOF have to accept this challenge. However, we need some time, the minimum required to re-design a Forum and a Science in the City Festival that live up to what we are proposing. 

The two fundamental characteristics of the new ESOF2020 will be an enhanced focus on the themes of the crisis that we are going through and an organisation that maximalises accessibility to the event. To achieve this, we will make greater use than originally foreseen of the online platforms and multi-media tools to produce and share content, creating virtual meetings that will imitate at least some parts of the physical meetings that cannot take place. Our sponsors will also have additional room for visibility and colaboration. It will not be an easy task as, and there is no point denying it, such a scenario was the last thing on our minds. For this reason, we are taking a little time before our operational communication on what we will do and how we will do it. 

We are, nevertheless, determined to nominate ESOF2020 Trieste as one of the first examples of a high-level International scientific event in pandemic times. A full-blown re-launch, and hopefully a model, to emphasise the advantages of virtual meetings that are, perhaps, too often overlooked.

These arrangements broaden, for example, the opportunities for participation of people from countries with less resources or with disabilities, of those with young children or have to assist elderly parents, not to mention the reduction of the environmental impact of international travelling. These considerations and concerns have for some time been present among those who, in various capacities, attend events similar to ESOF around the world. Perhaps this Coronavirus, through its tragic nature, has helped us to take a necessary step. In the words of Einstein, all crisis bring progress for those who know how to face up to them with wisdom and foresight, “Creativity is born from anguish, just like the day is born form the dark night.”

That said, inclusiveness, sustainability, and safety are the key words in our new ESOF, which may perhaps move less bodies but will enhance the circulation of ideas even more.

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