PHUSE EU Connect 2019

Wow, what a conference!! 

As the dust settles on another remarkable PHUSE conference, I am able to reflect with pride on the EU Connect 2019, which ran from 10–14 November, at the RAI conference centre, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. 

We welcomed 658 delegates to the wonderful (but rainy) city of Amsterdam for an action-packed conference. The event comprised 19 Streams, including 150 papers, 24 posters (from over 300 abstracts) and 3 exceptional and engaging data scientists as our keynote speakers, as well as 4 contemporary Hands-on Workshops, and a Discussion Club featuring the EMA, with 3 bonus hands-on sessions in Leadership & Innovation, Personnel Management & Professional Development. 

To my delight, several sessions reached capacity and were standing room only, which confirmed my belief that we had curated an excellent agenda! Plus, there were over 40 exhibitors and we debuted the new PHUSE Connect App – which was a great success! The activity stream is akin to Facebook/LinkedIn and was a great barometer for the energy and enthusiasm for the conference. There was frenetic and informative posting, and, as an added bonus, the App promoted interaction through gamification as points were awarded for performing activities and engaging within the App.

The conference kicked off on Sunday evening, with the Speakers Meeting, which gave the presenters and Stream Chairs the opportunity to finally meet, and the presenters the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the venue. The highlight of Sunday evening was the Poster Session, the first of many networking opportunities, followed by the Welcome Event. The additional second Poster Session, on Tuesday during lunch, was well attended, and the poster teasers (30-second brief summaries of the posters) had a great hit rate on PHUSE Tube.

Monday morning, I introduced Dr Elsa Sotiriadis, who spoke about Digital Biology and the ethical implications of such advancements, as well as the importance of Moonshot thinking. 

The much-publicised new dual-formatted Streams – Professional Development "Tools and skills to advance your career", Personnel Management "Techniques, tools and experiences for effective management of people or teams" and Leadership and Innovation "Innovative thinking, pushing boundaries and providing a platform for sharing these experiences" – were a great success. The hands-on sessions covered professional identity, a nine-box tool to identify high performers, and a debrief on the keynote about sleep. 

The Discussion Club gave an overview of current efforts from regulators and other organisations to enable data sharing, and we were honoured to have a presentation from the EMA on the status of Policy 0070, which was followed by a Q&A and panel discussion. The Connect Dinner took place at the NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, a very impressive venue, with a scenic ballroom with vaulted ceilings. It was a thoroughly enjoyable soirée, with great food and a party atmosphere, which enabled peers from across the industry to socialise and catch up with old friends.

Tuesday was started by Anne-Sophie Bekx (EU Connect 2019 Co-Chair/2020 Chair), who introduced Dr Neil Stanley, an expert in sleep who professes to decry the use of fancy titles in what he does or what he talks about. He gave a riveting keynote on Sleep and the Ways of Measuring It, which was hilarious, entertaining, controversial, and loved by most! Then followed the majority of the Hands-on Workshops: Programming in SAS Viya, Let's Make a Knowledge Graph! and Insight into Python. The bar for these workshops rises year on year!   

Wednesday was opened by Stephen Bamford (PHUSE Founder & Chairman of the Board), who introduced Simon Shepard and his keynote on The Data of Fluffy Stuff and the Battle for Sanity. Simon presented delegate questionnaire data completed prior to the conference, with illuminating insights. His analysis highlighted that we know that goals are important, yet we do not spend time setting them. He then analysed fascinating real-time data from the audience, walking through 72 hours of continuous data from 2 delegates. It was a dynamic, memorable presentation and I discovered the true meaning of multi-tasking when I was called up onto the stage to perform some 'simple' tasks. Simon explored key human performance indicators and explained how to use this data to improve your wellbeing. We also had our final Hands-on Workshop in Deep Learning for Humans and last hands-on session, facilitated by our keynote on Sleep.

To wrap up a whirlwind few days, I closed out the conference with the award ceremony for Best Photo, Exhibitor Card, Best in Stream and for most prolific use of the App. Anne-Sophie gave an excellent introduction to the EU Connect 2020, in Liverpool, UK. 

I would like to thank all those who attended the EU Connect 2019: all the individuals who submitted an abstract, those who presented, the Hands-on Workshop, hands-on session and Discussion Club facilitators, and our sponsors and exhibitors for their continuous support. In particular, I would like to offer my heartfelt gratitude to my Co-Chair, Anne-Sophie Bekx, the PHUSE Office, the entire Committee (Stream Chairs) and the PHUSE Board of Directors for all of their support, commitment and good humour. I have been extremely privileged and feel honoured to have chaired the EU Connect 2019 and look forward to seeing many of you again at PHUSE events during 2020 and beyond.


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