Could the Coronavirus Lockdown Be an Opportunity for Our Organisation?

John 'Jake' JacobAPLLeave a Comment

The Spring Mini Conference

For the past twelve years the British APL Association's (of which I'm the Editor and Optima Systems MD Paul Grosvenor is the Chairman) London group has been holding a regular symposium on the last Friday of the month only skipping December and the odd date that clashed with a royal wedding to avoid the crowd. This year we were planning to upgrade two of these live meetings to mini conferences.

Surprisingly, the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic "lock-down" has brought about a development that has resulted in us having our largest meeting to-date injecting a fresh impetus into the activities of the group.

How so? Well a good deal of effort had gone into organising the Mini Conference planned for 27th March 2020. As I departed for a holiday on 7th March everything was in place for the what promised to be a successful inaugural event.

Overtaken by events

The following Tuesday, when I looked up to see what was happening back in the world things, were unfolding rapidly. What was going to happen to the Mini Conference? A few brief emails to colleagues and we had a short list of ideas. However, by the following Monday I found myself returning to the UK on a rescue flight after the French authorities had closed all the ski resorts.

Inevitably the BAA Mini Conference Spring 2020 was postponed and the circular went out.

What now?

A short meeting on the 27th March via Zoom rapidly came to the decision to arrange a series of Webinars in the following form.

  • A forty-five minute presentation followed by fifteen minutes for a Q&A session.
  • The location would be a Zoom Webinar.
  • The webinars would be every other Thursday starting on the 9th April 2020.
  • The first four presentations would comprise those arranged for the Mini Conference.
  • An open invitation to present at future webinars would go out to the members.

A mail shot went out to announcing the Webinar programme for the lockdown and the Webinar schedule for 2020.

At 16:00 BST on 9th April 2020 Richard Park of Dyalog delivered our first Webinar presentation "Molecular Dynamics in APL". Over the course of the meeting we had thirty-seven attendees - our largest meeting yet. As well as people in the UK there were attendees from New York, Colorado and the Bay Area in California. Many of whom were attending their first ever BAA event.

What next?

The monthly symposia have provided an opportunity to share ideas; demonstrate recent work; and for people collaborating on projects the chance have a one-to-one hook up. But more than that, these meetings have been social events often winding up in a restaurant to round off the day. Many APLers work alone or in small groups and the chance to meet others can be a rare thing.

I hope the symposia will resume after the current crises has passed, a pint of real ale and a conversation with friends and colleagues are a thing to be missed.

At the same time I feel the Webinars are a breath of fresh air and I for one will do what I can to support their continuation.

Optima Systems is a sustaining member of the British APL Association.


About the Author

John 'Jake' Jacob

Technical Lead


Jake’s working life began as a Field Biologist for Wandsworth Borough Council; collecting, identifying and recording animal and plant life in parks, commons and other habitats; the data was used by the Borough and interested parties such as Friends of the Earth. Jake also used this material to write nature guides in Putney and Wimbledon. More about Jake.


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