A Message from the President

Dear Sleep Research Society Members,

I hope all of you enjoyed SLEEP2020 as much as I did. Of course, we all missed seeing friends and having impromptu discussions and debates in the hallways, but it was possible to get more from this meeting than any in the past. And, the meeting keeps on giving as we can continue to view sessions and discuss them with our students for the next 12 months. I found several features of the virtual meeting especially valuable. The first was to be able to attend any of the sessions, even the live ones, when it was convenient. A second was to be able to stop a talk and go back one or several slides when I missed something or was confused. The ability to do that made the rest of the presentation more understandable. A third was no conflicts about which sessions to attend. And fourth, those of us outside of the central time zone could arrange our own schedules of attendance. A notable first was Steve Brown giving his outstanding live lecture from Switzerland, late at night, and having a glass of wine rather than a plastic bottle of water.

The virtual poster sessions were so much better than the crowded poster halls. You did not have to jostle with a group trying to read the poster or pick up on the presenter’s comments when they were half way through an explanation for another person. Instead the presenter could take you alone through the presentation. An email address gave you the ability to ask questions. Once again, we missed bumping into colleagues, but those chance meetings also detract from what you can get out of the hundreds of posters that presenters put so much effort into.

A very special event at SLEEP2020 was the tribute to Bill Dement along with jazz interludes. The speakers described many of the exceptional contributions of our Father of Sleep Medicine, and the personal anecdotes were precious. A special touch was that the remembrances by Bill’s colleagues were interspersed with the family story told by his daughter Kathy Dement Roos. Thanks to everyone involved for putting this wonderful tribute together. That Blues Night Tribute is still available for viewing on the virtual SLEEP 2020 meeting platform.

By the numbers, SLEEP 2020 was a great success. We had 3,226 registrants, 70 sessions, 320 presentations not including Trainee Day and Meet the Professor sessions. Presenters represented 19 countries. There was a remarkable amount of interactivity through the chat function and also through 110 participant led discussions. I found it easy to email speakers and engage in meaningful discussions not constrained by the 5 minutes usually left for questions or by the chance you would meet them in the hallways. Other email interactions surely were stimulated by the 845 poster presentations.

We owe an enormous vote of thanks to the Program Committee chaired by Anne Germain for converting the meeting they had organized into a plan for a virtual meeting and doing it in a very short period of time. Then it was the incredible team from SRS and AASM that brought that plan to reality. They did a fantastic job and we are grateful for their hard and productive work.

I hope that SLEEP 2021 will be an in-person meeting, but we should consider retaining some of the features of the virtual meeting.

H. Craig Heller, PhD