NeIC All-hands meeting 2021 held online in January

Each year, around the end of January, NeIC organises an All-hands meeting, or AHM, for its staff to meet, discuss and collaborate across project teams. In the past, these meetings have taken place in a wintery Norwegian location such as Geilo or Kvitfjell. Even though most of the collaboration within NeIC requires Wi-Fi, we acknowledge the importance of meeting and networking face-to-face every now and then.

Only this year, a physical meeting could not be arranged.

Organising an online AHM

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NeIC All-hands meeting 2021 had to be held online. Both the length and the programme had to be revised: Usually, the event has lasted three to four days and the programme has contained speeches and presentations but also lots of social activities like skiing and shared coffee breaks. Moving the event online, this was not possible.

The Programme committee, chaired by Sanne Holm from DeiC, had to plan the structure and sessions so that everything would work as a webinar. The length had to be reduced to two half-day sessions: three hours plus an optional social hour on January 27th and three hours on January 28th. Like any other year, the event would start and end with a few words from the NeIC director, but everything in between had to be rethought.

The registration for the AHM21 opened on December 3rd, 2020. The event ended up having 95 registered participants, which is 10 more than in last year’s event. Not all participants took part in all sessions, but at best, some 80 people attended the AHM21 Zoom room.

The All-hands meeting 2021 programme consisted of two keynote speeches, project presentations, lightning talks, workshops and a few activity sessions.

The first day’s keynote was titled ‘Covid and the climate: What we’re learning from the lockdowns’ and it was presented by Bjørn H. Samset from CICERO - Center for International Climate Research. The keynote was followed by a presentation on NeIC’s PaRI project, which focuses on the collection and use of data in connection with research in COVID-19 and other pandemics. The day continued with lightning talks titled ‘The Hidden Tech Behind Everyday Tools’ with four experts from various fields of science. We learned about making maps, forecasting weather, language technology and digital pathology. After the official part was over, the participants had the chance to participate in an optional social hour and discuss freely.

The second day began with a keynote ‘LUMI EuroHPC supercomputer - the common resource for Nordic countries’ by Pekka Manninen from CSC. The keynote also involved a short introduction to NeIC’s Puhuri project, which aims at making it easier for researchers to access and use LUMI. Next, it was time for the Nerdy T-shirt Competition: The participants could send pictures of their science-related, funny shirts prior to the event. The submitted shirts and stories behind them were presented to the audience, who then received a link to vote for their favourite. The winner was a shirt with a funny Linux-related joke but a very lovely story. The competition was followed by a nerdy quiz, which turned out to be a hit.

After the activity session it was again time to learn. The participants could choose between four different workshops: quantum computing, downloading data from an API, organising online workshops and EOSC-Nordic cloud demos. For many, it may have been a tough choice, which is why the workshop sessions were recorded and shared to the participants afterwards. The event ended with a farewell talk from the NeIC Director, Gudmund Høst, and - finally, a wintery Norwegian landscape.

The full AHM21 programme can be seen here.

The Aftermath

The NeIC All-hands meeting is an important way to maintain the NeIC culture and provide opportunities to network and learn from colleagues. Even though the course of the online event was considered as well-thought and the programme interesting, the face-to-face communication and sense of community that has been present in previous All-hands meetings was still missed. Even if having an online event is the only possibility, it is still hard to compete with snowy mountains, skiing and dining together. All in all, the AHM21 and the preparations went well and the feedback has been mainly very positive.

We would like to thank all the speakers and presenters for accepting our invitation and attending the event, and the participants for experiencing the first ever online NeIC All-hands meeting with us. We hope to see you in person next year!