The International Linear Accelerator Conference (Linac2020), which is hosted bi-annually and typically attracts more than 400 linear accelerator specialists from all around the world, was originally scheduled to take place at the Liverpool Arena and Convention Centre in the UK during the week of 31st August 2020. As global travel and interaction restrictions of the pandemic were escalating in early 2020, it became clear to the UK conference hosting organisations comprising STFC Daresbury Laboratory, the Cockcroft Institute (CI) and the John Adams Institute (JAI), that alternative solutions for the delivery of the Linac2020 conference had to be sought.
The Linac International Organising Committee (IOC) concluded that delaying the original event by 2-years to 2022 was the best solution. At the same time, the IOC decided that the original Linac2020 scientific programme should be appropriately captured and disseminated in a smaller, virtual conference that could present the considerable linear accelerator R&D which has been undertaken since the last Linac2018 conference in Beijing.
Prof. Graeme Burt from Lancaster University and the CI, chaired the Linac2020 Scientific Programme Committee (SPC) to coordinate with the invited speakers and the STFC Media Services team to generate the talk videos and set-up the webinar site, ready for the SPC convenors to be able to host the Virtual Linac2020 event. Over the period, 1 - 4 September, the Virtual Linac2020 was hosted and interfaced with the international accelerator community as a non-physical conference, for the very first time in its almost 60-year history.
Prof Carsten P Welsch from the University of Liverpool and the CI, was the Local Organising Committee (LOC) chair, who ensured all alternative arrangements for the virtual-hosting were made available, as well as making sure the existing contractual arrangements for the physical-hosting could be appropriately transferred to 2022. The virtual event attracted 710 live international participants from all around the world and almost 800 registered to access the offline videos. The timing of the afternoon sessions was tailored to ensure that speakers from all regions could be appropriately available for their scheduled talks at a reasonable time with respect to their location.
A completely new element in the scientific programme was a Women In Science and Engineering (WISE) session focused on retention and advancement. This was conducted live comprising a number of distinguished panellists, who reviewed the challenges that they faced in being attracted to science and engineering, maintaining motivation to stay within the field and providing insightful and thought provoking personal career experiences, as well as answering questions from the online audience.
All talks from the Virtual Linac2020 conference are accessible and the UK partners are now looking forward to hosting the 31st International Linear Accelerator Conference 2022 in Liverpool.