How to vEGU: balancing the schedule and your personal programme with caring responsibilities

How to vEGU: balancing the schedule and your personal programme with caring responsibilities

Now that you have had a quick look at our programme for vEGU21, maybe found your abstract or session, you probably have a few questions! Over the next few weeks we will be trying to answer as many of these questions as we can, but if you have a question that you can’t see answered anywhere else, please send it to us, either using our social media, or by contacting the conference organisers directly (


Let’s start at the very beginning: The #vEGU21 schedule!


What does it mean for my abstract/session to be scheduled?

The session time in your schedule is the time during which all live vPICOs in your session will be active. Your abstract has been given a presentation time, but this is just the time for your brief 2-minute summary of your abstract. Following the live 2-minute summaries, authors will be split into their individual text chat rooms to discuss their work in more depth with their audience – just like a regular PICO. What this means is that for your display (or upload), you can go into as much detail as you want within the limits of the upload size (50MB) – you can even upload a full 15-minute video recording of you doing your talk, with correct captions and links to other materials. The text chats are the time to really delve into your topic after the 2-minute summary and answer any questions that other attendees may have.


What is a display?

A ‘display’ is the name we have given to any materials that an author uploads to accompany their abstract. There is no difference between presentation types for #vEGU21, all abstracts this year are called vPICOs as they combine a 2minute summary with a longer exploration of detailed uploaded material – just as in the in-person PICOs.

The displays enable you to share your research in as much detail as you choose. You can upload any display materials, such as a single graph or figure, a PowerPoint file or a map; as long as you don’t exceed the 50MB limit, if you want you can even upload a full video recording up to 200MB in size it’s up to you! For a list of appropriate file types, please click here. Your display will be connected to your submitted abstract and grouped within a scheduled session.

One of the things our attendees really loved in 2020 was the ability to comment on displays outside of the presentation time, so this is something we have kept for this year. You can comment on a display any time from when it is uploaded after uploads begin on 31 March through to the end of May 2021.


Can I still create a personal programme?

Absolutely! The personal programme option is a great way to organise all the sessions you are interested in. The personal programme allows you to add either entire sessions or individual abstracts to keep track of your most important topics. You can add an item to your personal programme by clicking the yellow star next to the abstract or session. One thing to bear in mind is that the personal programme will only be able to list times in CEST – but during the fortnight of the General Assembly you will also be able to click an ics link that will import your session or abstract into your own calendar – which will automatically translate it into your time zone.


What about the schedule time zone?

As EGU is based in central Europe we decided to set the time zone for the conference in CEST. This was a difficult decision as we know many of our attendees will be joining from around the globe, but as our technical staff are based in Germany and we wanted to support our attendees in building manageable length days we decided to set a more limited time zone – just as it would be if we were in Vienna. This year the schedule has been set into very specific time blocks to help you manage your online interactions. We know that spending a whole day online is exhausting, and particularly for people who are neurodiverse, being able to manage your time and take regular screen breaks is important. Thus, you will see that the schedule is the same for both weeks and is organised into four time blocks between 09.00 and 17.00 CEST.

9:00-10:30 First morning session
10:30-11:00 Break
11:00-12:30 Second morning session
12:30-13:30 Lunch
13:30-15:00 First afternoon session
15:00-15:30 Break
15:30-17:00 Second afternoon session
17:00-19:00 Optional evening events


I’m worried about juggling my responsibilities during the week, including childcare and caring responsibilities. What do I do?

Firstly, we acknowledge how difficult it is to attend a digital conference, even when you are just thinking about your working responsibilities. We really hope that you will be able to be kind to yourself this week and, where possible, focus only on attending vEGU21 – just as you would if you were attending in Vienna. And yes. that also includes taking some time out to explore and go for walks, talk with friends and colleagues and enjoy (hopefully) the late April weather. In Vienna you are not constantly in the conference centre for the full week, and we hope you will be able to let yourself not constantly be working during vEGU21 as well.


Other top tips for making an online conference easier:

  • Take regular breaks! This can mean doing something that isn’t work related, or even stepping away from your computer altogether.
  • Keep a pad and pen nearby to doodle on while you listen – let yourself fidget. Research suggests that letting yourself fidget whilst you listen can actually help you focus and remember more, so if you want to doodle whilst you listen – do it!
  • Schedule varied events. Once you have added your key sessions and abstracts into your personal programme, why not consider adding some more varied events? During the two weeks of vEGU21 you will be able to add and attend pop-up networking events, from Division social events to short presentations by our Artists (not) in Residence. There will also be our usual range of Union Symposia and Great Debate live sessions and a number of short courses! Adding varied events to your schedule will give you a chance to focus your attention in different ways over the ten days of the meeting.
  • Be ruthless to the schedule but kind to yourself. We at EGU know how easy it is to get excited when the programme is released and there are so many exciting sessions you want to attend, but remember – these events are very tiring to attend and you have to take care of yourself – so be conservative with adding events to your calendar and ruthless if you need to cut some out. Similarly, to ease the burden, you should try not to attend more than one session simultaneously. You would not be able to do this in Vienna, don’t feel like you have to do it now.
  • Take the weekend off. You will notice that we are scheduling no formal events for the weekend between the two weeks of the General Assembly – this is intentional. We know that extending the meeting to two weeks means extra time spent in a virtual conference space, so we really want you all to take the weekend off, relax and recharge as much as you are able and come back to the second week excited for some amazing science discussions.


For people who have caring responsibilities, we spoke with two of our Division Presidents, Ira Didenkulova and Dan Parsons, who have also been caring for young children this year about what they suggest for balancing caring with attending a virtual conference, but we would also very much appreciate any tips or advice any of you have to share.

My partner is also in research, so we plan our weeks in advance, so that one takes over the kids, while another needs to be at a conference/seminar. Obviously, it does not always work for both of us, but is more of a survival kit. Cleaning the house is also a challenge – we clean the house only every couple of weeks…! Toys are more often than not lying around. When my partner reaches his limit, he collects them into the box and hides them somewhere for a while.

And… unless it is something special, when I should concentrate very much, I let the kids run around and get involved if they want to watch my zooms. Then either they become bored and soon leave, or they start to play in something of their own, so I can work nearby.

In the worst case scenario, when both of us are busy and the kids ask for attention, we use cartoons! I am trying to keep it at the level of not more than once a week, so this is our emergency solution for critical days. I have my own selection of downloaded, approved cartoons and use a projector and a big screen. So, they have kind of a cinema! Another emergency solution is to re-discover the box of hidden toys after some weeks or even months. This gives an excitement for several hours, so practically saves a day!

Ira Didenkulova, Natural Hazards Division President


Managing the workload of attending a virtual conference with all the other pressures of life during a pandemic is not easy, particularly when you have a 4 year-old, a 10 and 12 year-old all at home – as was the case during EGU2020! ….and I was really lucky to be heavily supported by my wife, Katie. I know that many would have had less support making it even harder to juggle things. It was difficult getting to see all the sessions as well as keeping the children home-schooled and entertained. My wife, who is in the middle of her PhD, and I did a tag-team around the most important sessions I wanted to see last year and around the important times and parts of being a Division President.  Overall, although I felt like I missed so much great science the fact that the resources were all available outside of the session times meant that I was able to catch up with things I would undoubtably missed if I was in Vienna in a normal General Assembly.

So as we move to #vEGU21 still with some uncertainty on where we will be in terms of restrictions and schooling, what have I learnt? First, have a listing of those sessions you want to see most – prioritise – gold, silver and bronze or similar. Second, try not to worry if you miss things – I miss things all the time in Vienna, and at #vEGU21 you can find the content afterward and follow up with the authors in the networking space. And finally, you can go to a conference in your pyjamas….take advantage of that!

Dan Parsons, Geomorphology Division President


Stay tuned for more information on ‘How to vEGU’ over the next few weeks, we look forward to seeing you in April, to gather online!

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Hazel Gibson is Head of Communications at the European Geosciences Union. She is responsible for the management of the Union's social media presence and the EGU blogs, where she writes regularly for the EGU's official blog, GeoLog. She has a PhD in Geoscience Communication and Cognition from the University of Plymouth in the UK. Hazel tweets @iamhazelgibson.

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