This year started off in a similar vein to last year with lockdowns followed by opening up and many sectors remaining closed until this summer. Now 85% of adults are fully vaccinated and many of us have returned to our workplaces. Lockdown meant the ISHG conference moved from a face-to-face meeting to an online gathering. The committee worked extremely hard to ensure that the online offering was as successful as the face to face meetings had been.
The ISHG 2020 conference was very well received by our members. Many commented that because it was recorded and all posters and lectures were available for viewing after the conference that it offered better learning than a face to face meeting. Conference abstracts were published in volume 190 (Supplement 2) of the Irish Journal of Medical Science.
This year ISHG participated in the ESHG DNA Day essay competition, which marks National DNA Day on the 25th of April. This involved producing a poster and circulating it to all secondary schools in both the Republic and Northern Ireland. We ran our own Irish competition alongside the ESHG competition to encourage Irish entries. The winners have been selected and will be announced at ISHG 2021. We also sent a short presentation aimed at transition year students to all schools to educate on genomics and genetics and hopefully encourage some students to consider a career in our field.
ISHG 2021 will also be an online event as we weren’t sure how comfortable our members would be with an in-person event. We miss meeting everyone and very much hope to return to face to face on the 16th of September in the Radisson Blu in Dublin so remember to put that date in your 2022 diaries.
This year the committee implemented an online abstract submission platform. This has numerous advantages, it ensures abstracts are kept to the required length, saving on publication costs after the conference. It allows for a much simpler way for the committee to review and score abstracts and to contact authors. It also allows for a single place to upload posters safely and to simply download an abstract booklet for the conference and for publication. We are delighted with the Oxford Abstracts platform and hope to use it for future conferences.
The committee have been discussing how to expand the role of the ISHG and make it more relevant for those working in human Genetics in Ireland. This is extremely important now that genomics has become very much a part of mainstream medicine. We have revised and updated the constitution which will allow for an expansion of roles within the committee and will allow a mechanism whereby membership can make suggestions to the committee ahead of the AGM. We have begun work on the development of a new website which we hope will be available very shortly.
Last October and in March of this year the Irish Health Research Forum held two very informative online symposiums on Advancing Genomics Research in Ireland. The ISHG wholeheartedly agree with their recommendations and to progress this discussion have invited Dame Sue Hill to talk at this year’s conference. We are allowing for a long question and answer session as we have much to learn from the UK experience. We await with anticipation the appointment of the National Genomic Lead, which we understand has been offered to the successful candidate and the ISHG looks forward to supporting the National Lead when they take up their position.
We are really looking forward to this year’s ISHG conference and hope that you all find it an enjoyable occasion.