ASSBI past ANNUAL CONFERENCES
2021 ASSBI Conference
The 6th Pacific Rim conference was held from 30 June – 3 July 2021, and was the first joint conference of the International Neuropsychological Society (INS), the Australasian Society for the Study of Brain Impairment (ASSBI), and the Australian Psychological Society’s College of Clinical Neuropsychologists (CCN). The conference theme was “Putting our heads together to change lives”, which had several intended meanings: not only did 3 organisations collaborate to put together this conference, but it was also a way to connect across disciplines, across countries, across topics of research, and across clinical practice and research, all in the service of improving the lives of people living with conditions affecting the brain.
This conference was unique and challenging in several ways. The most prominent of these was that a Melbourne-based COVID outbreak and associated restrictions forced the hybrid conference to turn completely virtual, just 10 days before the conference was due to start. This meant a dizzyingly large number of quick changes to our plans, requiring a flurry of last minute instructions, acquisition of new IT skills, and emails to presenters, chairs, and delegates (sorry everyone!). It was a true test of cognitive, behavioural, and emotional flexibility. We are very proud that we managed to pull it off, with surprisingly few hiccups.
We were delighted to host 728 registered delegates for this conferencefrom all corners of the world: Australia, New Zealand, UK, USA, Canada, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore, Norway, Netherlands, Japan, Switzerland, Chile, Finland, Bangladesh, Argentina, Israel, and Malaysia. The programme involved plenary sessions from 3 international keynote speakers (Prof Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, A/Prof Sarah McPherson, and Prof Neil Pliskin), 3 national keynote speakers (A/Prof Emma Power, Dr Kylie Radford, and A/Prof Rene Stolwyk), 3 presidential addresses (Prof Skye McDonald, Prof Olivier Piquet and Amy Scholes), plus 6 highly successful pre-conference workshops, 3 mini-masterclasses, 3 invited symposia, 70 platform papers, 56 datablitz papers, 88 posters, and 15 ‘How to’ sessions.
In the absence of a physical location for the conference, the level of engagement and connection on Twitter was extraordinary. The #headstogether2021 hashtag had over 2.33 million impressions! We had 2145 tweets, 226 engaged participants, 21 average tweets per hour and an average of 9 tweets per participant across the entire conference – This is amazing! There were also several fabulous “watch parties” in places where that was allowable.
Much fun was had at our virtual welcome ceremony on the evening of Day 1, where attendees were put into random breakout rooms to guess “The Masked Presenter”, and participated in a treasure hunt and other shenanigans with great enthusiasm. Prior in the day, there were a series of workshops on wide-ranging topics including: electrical injuries, holistic approaches to neuropsychology with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, child concussion (from Prof Vicki Anderson and colleagues), teleneuropsychology, executive function assessment, and implementation of communication partner training.
The main conference was opened on Day 2 with a beautiful welcome to country from Aunty Georgina, followed by welcomes from the conference co-convenors and the Presidents and Chairs of INS (Prof Skye McDonald), ASSBI (Prof Olivier Piguet) and CCN (Dr Amy Scholes), all of whom also gave inspiring and engaging presidential addresses as part of the conference programme.
Other programme highlights from the conference were keynote presentations by Professor Neil Pliskin, who conveyed an encouraging message about the value of neuropsychology; Dr Kylie Radford, who inspired us with her crucial co-design work with indigenous Australians; A/Prof Rene Stolwyk, who gave a comprehensive update on the current state of tele-neuropsychology research and practice; Prof Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, who normalised adolescent risk-taking; A/Prof Sarah McPherson, who got us thinking about executive functions; and A/Prof Emma Power, who shed light on the important but oft-overlooked issue of sexuality and intimacy after acquired brain injury. We also had fabulous mini-masterclasses on vocational rehabilitation, voluntary assisted dying, and cognitive rehabilitation in psychiatric disorders.
A unique and popular feature of the program was a debate on the merits of Goal Attainment Scaling, which was organised and run by Professor Barbara Wilson, with impressive and persuasive speakers both for and against. The ‘against’ team managed to sway some (but not all!) voters over to their side.
There was a superb array of high-quality platform, datablitz, poster and ‘how to’ presentations, covering topics from COVID-19, to paediatrics, adult ADHD, brain injury rehabilitation, speech and language, accommodation issues, and more.
Our conference dinner would have been held on the evening of Day 3, but alas was not to be. We are all greatly anticipating/hoping for a spectacular return to conference dance floors in 2022.
The 4 day conference ended with our award ceremony and prizes. The following is a list of prizes and awarded given out on the day:
Kevin Walsh Award – Best Presentation by a Masters student
Luria Award – Best Presentation by a PhD Candidate
INS Early-Career Award
INS Mid-Career Award
INS Lifetime Research Award
INS Distinguished Career Award
INS Mentoring Award
Marit Korkman Award – Best Presentation by Graduate Student in Paediatric Neuropsychology
Phillip Rennick Award – Best Presentation by a PhD Candidate
Laird Cermak Award – Memory functioning and memory disorders research award
Nelson Butters Award – Award for best Postdoctoral Researcher award
INS Student Liaison Committee Awards
Thank you to all the delegates who provided feedback on the conference. We were very gratified to see an average attendee rating of 4.7/5. Attendees enjoyed the breadth and quality of presentations. There was mixed feedback about the online format. Although many people missed being able to be together face-to-face, many attendees appreciated the flexibility of the online delivery. It was suggested that future events should be hybrid, to enable people to attend around their other work or family commitments. Session recordings were also appreciated so that people could watch at a time that suited them, or watch sessions that had been programmed concurrently.
A big thank you to everyone who made this conference a success. Special thanks to the Melbourne Convention Bureau, who worked alongside us to try and bring you all to visit our wonderful city of Melbourne. Although it was not to be, they really were fantastic to work with, and we do hope our interstate and international delegates manage to visit Melbourne in the future. We would also like to shout out to the team at the Melbourne Convention Centre, who did their best to try and accommodate our needs and help us deal with the constantly changing regulations. Thanks also to Showtime Events who were very understanding when we had to cancel the dinner last minute. Thanks to our Principal Conference Partner, the Transport Accident Commission; our major partner, Brightwater; and our community partners Coviu, Drake Medox, Ipsen, Pearson, and the Summer Foundation. We also appreciate the sponsorship from Cambridge University Press and Rehability Australia. Thank you also to the 2021 Conference Organising Committee: Kelly Allott, Marina Cavuoto, Kate Gould, David Lawson and Jessica Trevena-Peters, as well as the Scientific Committee. Kate Gould and David Lawson also ran an amazing community forum on Research Co-Design the day before the conference, with support from the genyus network’s Caleb Rixon – thank you! A special mention to our 3 student conference organising committee members – Jonathan Reyes, Anique Muttiah, and Aishani Desai. Your leadership, enthusiasm, teamwork, and can-do attitude was inspiring. The other student volunteers also really stepped up, especially crucially as our IT support team, for which we are incredibly grateful– thank you Donella Coro, Alex Davies, Thomas Goodwin, Amelia Hicks, Susan Langborne, Elise Li, Ruth Minkov, Bill Nguyen, Daniel Pearce, Rebekah Simpson, Paulina Stedall, Hariklia Vagias, and Lucie Zwart. Thank you to our conference steering committee, Jacinta Douglas, Simon Crowe, and Vicki Anderson, for giving us the opportunity to chair this conference, providing us with plenty of freedom in the program design, but having our backs when needed. Finally, none of this could have been achieved without, of course, the incredible organisational prowess of Margaret “the Terminator” Eagers, and her 2IC tech support Matt Eagers. Thank you all for making the 6th Pacific Rim conference such a fantastic success.
Dr Kerryn Pike, Dr Travis Wearne & Dr Dana Wong