The Virtual Streptococcal Seminar Series and Trainee Symposium: Adaptations of a Research Community during the COVID-19 Pandemic

J Microbiol Biol Educ. 2021 Mar 31;22(1):22.1.55. doi: 10.1128/jmbe.v22i1.2479. eCollection 2021.


The COVID-19 pandemic has forced academic research communities to develop online means of learning, networking, and engaging in new research. To allow increased interaction and engagement of the streptococcal research community during the COVID-19 shutdown, we organized the Virtual Streptococcal Seminar Series and Virtual Streptococcal Trainee Symposium and advertised via e-mail and social media outlets. The seminar series initially met weekly on Thursdays at 12 pm Eastern Daylight Time and transitioned to monthly seminars, while the trainee symposium spanned 3 days in September 2020. In this study, we analyzed seminar attendance data and online recording accesses from the first 20 seminars and found community engagement to be independent of speaker gender, career stage, geographic location, and organism of interest, with an average of 124 live attendees and 1,683 recording accesses per seminar. We also report attendance and speaker statistics from the 3-day Virtual Streptococcal Trainee Symposium, which hosted a total of 38 trainees from five continents presenting on Streptococcus pneumoniae, Streptococcus agalactiae, Streptococcus pyogenes, Streptococcus suis, oral streptococci, or Enterococcus faecalis. The Virtual Streptococcal Trainee Symposium averaged 119 live attendees per session, with a total of 220 unique attendees from six continents across the 3-day event. We conclude that while online platforms do not replace in-person conferences, the seminar and symposium successfully engaged the streptococcal research community and have provided a forum for scientific sharing during the COVID-19 crisis.