For the 31st V.M. Goldschmidt Conference, the lion, the historic symbol of the city of Lyon (France) and also the conference logo figurehead, sat down and took his place in front of his computer for the second virtual meeting. During the early planning, it had been hoped that the meeting could have taken a hybrid format, with at least a small on-site presence in Lyon. But, as the date approached, it became clear that this would expose delegates to unnecessary risk. The European Association of Geochemistry (EAG) and the Geochemical Society (GS) then set about building on the blueprint developed, at extremely short notice, for last year’s meeting, to try and reproduce the “Goldschmidt experience” in a virtual environment. An emphasis was placed on live talks but with the assurance to delegates that their time zones would be respected and that no one would be asked to present at 3 a.m.(!) … except the plenary speakers, who very graciously agreed to this. Thus, the shape of the meeting was defined: it required two blocks of talks to allow delegates to the east and west of Europe to take part. Even before you consider how long people (or lions) can sit in front of a computer in one sitting, you come to a length of about two-and-a-half hours for each block, otherwise the talks become too early or too late for some sections of the audience. By recording the live sessions, however, and making them available for two weeks after the meeting, everything was available to everyone. And, although live talks had to be relatively short, there was the possibility of uploading longer talks, which many delegates took advantage of.

We were fortunate to be able to take advantage of the technological improvements, particularly in the reliability of video conferencing, that have occurred over the last few years. The SpatialChat video networking environment provided, perhaps, the closest approach yet to on-site interaction at a meeting, allowing one to move between individuals and groups in a room to discuss a point or just say “Hi”. In fact, a number of clear benefits arose from the format of the meeting. It was very easy to flip between parallel sessions, particularly as session chairs did an excellent job at keeping talks on time. A virtual meeting certainly puts more pressure on the chairs and the conveners, both of whom suddenly have many more responsibilities. But they rose to the challenge with confidence and elegance. Although sessions were tight in order to fit the many talks into the available time, questions posted in the Zoom chat opened up another real-time avenue for interaction. The compressed format of the meeting also meant that delegates had time during the day to do all the other things that just don’t seem to disappear when we fly off to a meeting.

We are very grateful to the geochemical community for the support and trust shown by them towards the meeting. Your support in these difficult times ensures that we can have meetings into the future, and it gives us the chance to meet up again online in Honolulu (Hawaii, USA) next year, and in Europe in 2023!

Thanks to the immense efforts and commitment of the Local Organizing Committee, science committee members, theme chairs, the more than 450 session conveners, and the crucial support from the 19 conference sponsors, Goldschmidt2021 can boast the following statistics.

  • 2,724 abstracts in 98 sessions across 14 themes

  • 5 plenary lectures (available on the conference’s YouTube channel)

  • 2,540 live talks in 201 live sessions, equating to 370 hours of geochemistry!

  • 2,220 static and video e-presentations uploaded, receiving over 50,000 views!

  • 11 science workshops attended by 641 delegates; 3 sponsored seminars.

  • 3,265 delegates from 67 countries, including 142 early career scientists from low- and lower-middle-income countries who received grants from the Goldschmidt Grant Program, and US-based students who received grants thanks to generous support from the NSF and NASA.

  • 12 early career workshops attended by 912 delegates; 10 Meet the Plenary events; over 400 mentees and mentors in the 2021 Mentor Program.

  • Over 50 SpatialChat rooms, including 4 exhibition halls and 28 theme rooms for post-session discussions, visited by over 2,000 delegates!

  • Daily social and networking events (Icebreaker, including concert by Double Scotch; Goldschmidt pub quiz; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion networking event; Pride Night; Meet the Organizers; wine-tasting on Zoom; and Cocktails with Kevin) and online activities throughout the conference (Sponsorship Challenge, Photo Booth, Medal Hunt, Goldschmidt Art Gallery, and Timelapse Cinema).

  • The EAG and GS recognize that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are the foundations of a strong and thriving scientific community. To promote engagement from across the geochemistry community and related disciplines, and to ensure an equitable conference for all attendees, the EAG’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee (@EAG_DEI) organized a number of sessions, workshops, and other events during Goldschmidt2021.

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