ESOF2022: An Explosion of Science!

There are no coincidences, you force luck: Leiden has been the City of Science since the beginning of the year, the tenth edition of the largest European interdisciplinary science conference ESOF2022 – already brimming with science – was coming up when two more gifts arrived: the presentation of the first the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) photos, and the flowering (once every ten years for only 48 hours!) of the Amorphophallus Titanum; the giant penis plant in the Hortus Botanicus, where we hosted our ESOF delegate party. It only added to the great impression Leiden had already made with its beautiful historical locations (Pieterskerk and Stadsgehoorzaal) and scientifically important places (Cleveringazaal, Lorentzzaal in the Kamerlingh Onnes Gebouw) where many of the onsite and hybrid scientific sessions took place.

James Webb’s photographs were gratefully used by astronomer Prof. Dr. Ewine van Dishoeck; she tirelessly explained the information that the photos revealed. For other scientists, but also for the general public, during a special ‘Ask-me-anything-you-want-to-know-about-JWST’ session on Saturday in the Pieterskerk; one of the Open Podium sessions on the exhibition floor. The scale model of the telescope was a crowd-pleaser, as were many booths where all kinds of activities like meetups, live networking and training sessions took place. While delegates could go to Live Poster presentations and Studio ESOF2022 live streamed – three times a day – interviews, reports from the exhibition floor and great live music.

Onsite and Online
ESOF2022 was (partly) hybrid this year by means of an amazing virtual platform, connecting onsite with online. In doing so, the congress set a highly qualified sustainable standard. In a world that is constantly changing, science changes with it. Science is increasingly becoming an ecosystem in which both geographical boundaries and the boundaries between disciplines have to be broken. And that’s what happened: everyone who could not be physically present in Leiden simply had to log in to the very realistically designed platform (connecting onsite with online) to be able to participate in the scientific sessions and interact with speakers: from the ‘Living In a world with pandemics’ and the ‘Sustainable Cities’ plenary panels, to all seven keynotes related to the seven themes chosen by the local champions: Sustainable Environment, Cultural Identities and Transformation, Space for Science, Healthy Societies, Freedom and Responsibility of Science, Science and Business and Sustainable Academic Careers.

Katowice, the next European City of Science and host of ESOF2024 was also represented online (and onsite in Katowice) and we cannot forget our first ever world programme sessions, connecting scientist from around the globe.

Explosion of Science
The content of the sessions themselves transcended borders as well. Nobel Prize winner Ben Feringa argued for more room for coincidence in science under the theme of Space for Science, and ‘bioartist’ Jennifer Willet championed the link between art and science. Islamologist Maurits Berger shed light on his research to allow Muslims to speak for themselves instead of about them; and the women in academia were also well catered for with the Elsevier Women in Science program and the challenges Gemma Modinos outlined for female leaders in academia. With 120 sessions and 75 poster presentations with more than 500 speakers and delegates from 87 different countries, it is impossible to give a complete list here, but luckily – for all delegates – the entire programme can be (re)watched through the virtual platform until September 30th.

After Movie and Images
For everyone that could not make it and everyone who would like to relive ESOF2022 we created an after movie. This movie and all images can be found here: ESOF 2022 Conference Gallery – EuroScience Open Forum

Let’s keep crossing borders, in order to connect science with society!