Due to the ongoing coronavirus situation, AbGradE 2020, planned to be held in Bologna, Italy, was held as a virtual symposium on August 26th, 2020, immediately before the EANA 2020 virtual meeting. Although it was a shame to be unable to meet with friends and colleagues in person, a fortunate consequence of holding our symposium in cyberspace was that our virtual conference room was filled with attendees from around the globe, many of whom joined us from countries that had not previously attended an AbGradE meeting. In total, we counted more than 200 participants from 43 countries across six continents among the attendees, making AbGradE 2020 the best-attended and certainly the most international event yet! In addition to nineteen contributed talks from early-career researchers on a diverse range of research themes in astrobiology, we were pleased to welcome twelve representatives of national and international initiatives and institutions in astrobiology, who discussed research directions and career opportunities within their groups. This addressed two of the most commonly asked questions by early-career scientists: how can I develop a career in astrobiology, and where should I go to do so?
Overall, despite the challenges imposed by the virtual nature of the meeting, its execution was successful and stimulated considerable discussion between the participants. We hope and intend that future AbGradE symposia will be hybrid meetings, taking place both in a physical conference hall and streamed online, such that the impetus of international collaboration and discourse seen in AbGradE 2020 can be maintained.
For further information, send a message to AbGradE via Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/AbGradE/.