Why it is important to hold a conference despite COVID-19

Director of the Danish Center for Mindfulness, Lone Overby Fjorback, shares her thoughts on why it is important to carry on with an online conference despite the pandemic.

Research on mindfulness and compassion has increased worldwide over the last years. Knowledge about the effectiveness on mindfulness-based programmes and interventions in different populations and settings is important. And sharing this knowledge, across institutions and countries, is the best way to strengthen the quality and effectiveness to all who teach and practice.

Why? Because mindfulness and compassion makes a difference – or has the potential to do so – to the wellbeing of all of us, no matter what the color of our skin or the country of our home is.

Last time, international researchers were able to meet and share new research on mindfulness and compassion was in the Netherlands in 2018 for the 3rd bi-annual International Conference on Mindfulness (ICM). In 2020, we were supposed to meet in Aarhus, Denmark, with the Danish Center for Mindfulness, Aarhus University, as organizer and host.

We didn’t meet – well, only online for a day of presentations (which you can find here: https://mindfulness.au.dk/konferencer/konference-2020/mindfulness-research-around-the-world-in-a-day/ )

This year, we decided to carry on with the full conference – live online. The COVID-19 situation is still too uncertain in terms of international travel. And we know from experience, that meeting online in a live format can work.

We believe the importance of bringing new research forward, learning about mechanisms of effectiveness and populations, is more important than postponing the conference once again due to the lack of opportunity to meet in person.

We hope you will support us in this. And that you will join and participate in the international event, which we will do our best to make interesting and fruitful for everyone involved.

We have gathered senior international researchers and experts in a panel of reviewers to read and review hundreds of new research abstracts submitted for this conference. This research will be presented through the abstract handling “Oxford Abstracts” in combination with Zoom live meetings.

Also, we have engaged keynotes from around the world, as well as workshop facilitators with exciting new ways of practicing and thinking about mindfulness and compassion. We plan to intersperse the programme with moments of practice, meditation and yoga, and opportunities to network with peers in a more informal way.

Why does this matter? We believe it matters greatly for us as mindfulness and compassion researchers, teachers and practitioners to meet and learn from each other. And if we don’t meet, in a structured, yet playful and inspirational, way in time if not in place, then important knowledge may go to waste.

We have been asked why the price of participation is the same for the online conference as for the conference that was supposed to happen physically last year. Well, we are not making money from organizing the event, so all the funds go to administration and buying software licenses as well as hiring people to help us facilitate and run the conference.

We sincerily hope for your understanding in this matter.

However, we are aware that some people – especially from certain areas of the world – will not be able to afford the conference fee. Therefore, we are offering an opportunity to apply for free access through “7 acts of kindness”.

Read more about this option here: https://events.au.dk/icm2021/7-acts-of-kindness.html

Finally, please let us know if you have any suggestions for how we can make sure that everyone has a good time from July 5-8, when we meet the only way we safely can meet right now.

Or go directly to registration here: https://events.au.dk/icm2021/registration.html


On behalf of the organizing committee,

Lone Overby Fjorback, Director, Associate Professor, Psychiatrist, PhD.

The Danish Center for Mindfulness, Aarhus University, Denmark