The last two years have brought scientific exchange into a new era. Virtual communication between researchers around the globe has been refined and taken to a new level. Young researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg have also been thinking about how the positive aspects of global scientific exchange can be further perfected. To this end, they have launched the platform Their co-founder Oliver Völkel explains how it works and what is planned.

You launched sci-an during the Corona pandemic. Can you briefly explain what the project is about?
sci-an is a virtual event platform for scientific networking and discussion. Our goal is to make the scientific process more efficient, sustainable and inclusive. Since the number of new talents in science increases rapidly every year worldwide, we need new ways to enable young scientists in particular to start an international career.
How does such an entry take place?
This entry usually happens through networking at scientific conferences. Unfortunately, these international conferences are often associated with numerous ecological burdens and economic obstacles. As a result, many young talents are not recognised, which is enormously damaging to their careers and to science as a whole.
What are you doing about it?
By combining virtual events with targeted networking tools, sci-an offers an easy-to-use alternative worldwide.
How is sci-an structured? Sci-an consists of a combination of an event management tool, a virtual 3D conference hall and personal profiles for scientific content and discussions. The core of our platform is the specially developed 3D conference hall for coffee breaks, poster sessions and general networking events. All participants are represented by avatars linked to their scientific profile and content. Conversations are automatically established through spatial proximity to others, resulting in a lively conversation landscape among each other. Through the informal setting alongside the professional presentation of the scientists, we enable a new form of virtual networking.
What does participation cost?
Currently, our project is funded by an EXIST start-up grant from the Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection, as well as by the Startup Incubator Programme of the Max Planck Society (MAX!mize). This funding currently allows us to offer sci-an free of charge to all interested parties worldwide. I would therefore like to invite all scientists to use sci-an for themselves and their next events to experience the benefits of virtual networking in science for themselves.
Picture: The Sci-an team. Picture: Kimberly Kober

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