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18th Swiss Geoscience Meeting 2020 Zurich

Eagle Nebula's "Pillars of Creation". Credits: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)/J. Hester, P. Scowen (Arizona State U.)
Eagle Nebula's "Pillars of Creation". Credits: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)/J. Hester, P. Scowen (Arizona State U.)

A record number of 1103 people attended the 18th edition of the Swiss Geoscience Meeting on November 6 and 7, 2021. This event, originally planned to be held at the ETH Zurich, was finally organized online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the theme "Shaping Earth: From Planet Accretion To Microbes", the Friday plenary session was dedicated to two exciting topics, namely the formation of our planet and the evolution of life.

The liveliness and multi-faceted nature of geosciences was also evident in the technical symposia on Saturday, which gave young scientists in particular the opportunity to present the results of their research. In addition to the academic topics, this 18th edition of the SGM also offered symposia in the field of applied geosciences, such as on seismic hazards or on deep geothermal energy, CO2 storage and energy exploration.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the organization of this edition of the SGM was quite a challenge for everyone involved and many things had to be reinvented. However, we were able to show that even a congress of some complexity like the SGM, with 24 parallel sessions including oral and poster presentations, can be organized online in a way that is almost as fruitful and interactive for the participants as a physical meeting.

The decision of the local organizing committee of ETH Zurich to ask the 450 speakers to pre-record their presentations before the conference and upload them to a central server proved to be excellent. Although this decision was not initially greeted with great enthusiasm by everybody, it saved in the end participants from the tedious experience of having to listen to 15-minute presentations broadcasted over a poor internet connection.

The online service Discord, free of charge and very popular among gamers, proved to be a suitable platform for the poster presentations and discussions. The multiple possibilities offered by this platform to present and discuss different materials via text or video chat were actively used, and the posters sometimes even met with more interest than at a physical SGM.

This 18th edition of the SGM was organized in collaboration with the Department of Earth Sciences of the ETH Zurich. We take this opportunity to express our sincere thanks to our colleagues from ETH, in particular to Eric Reusser and Julien Allaz.

And the preparations for the next event are already underway: the 19th SGM will be held in Geneva on 19 & 20 November 2021.