Last year, Davide Nicolini, Co-Director of the Institute of Health, had planned to attend a conference in Australia, but at the last minute he couldn’t go. “Instead, I sent a poster and responded to questions over Skype,” he says. “People loved it and said it was very different.”
The experience gave him the idea of producing “digital” posters: posters that would be viewed on a large screen and which could incorporate sound, music, video and animation. Davide says: “Many people will find that a digital poster is more accessible, and you can put it on your website or send it to someone via email. I wouldn’t deny that producing a digital poster takes more time than producing a traditional print one, and it needs new skills, but I believe it is more effective.”
The Institute of Heath road-tested the idea of digital posters at its networking event in April 2011. Held at The Digital Lab, a large, airy building on the University of Warwick campus, the event provided an opportunity to showcase health-related research across the university.
“We hold these events because there are plenty of people throughout the university who work on health, some of them in the most unexpected places,” Davide explains. “There are a lot of people who are quite isolated, working by themselves, but who have tangential or overlapping interests and who need somewhere to meet. It’s particularly important for young scholars.”
The day included a series of short presentations by different research groups—each one just long enough to capture the interest of others and tell them where to find out more.
As always at conferences, some of the most important interactions took place outside of the formal presentations, over coffee or lunch. “We wanted to bring people together, so that they can take notice of what others are doing—a place of ‘creative abrasion’,” Davide says. The digital posters provided one of the highlights of the day. Several large screens dotted around the poster area, with headphones, allowed those browsing the posters to look at the digital versions provided by 10 research groups. Clicking on each title showed that different authors had interpreted the idea of a “digital poster” in different ways. Some had produced videos of members of their team talking about their work; others were more akin to PowerPoint presentations with music (or even PowerPoint without music!).
The Institute of Health had provided two free training sessions in February and March for people who wanted to find out how to produce digital posters. It also organised a vote for the best digital poster, with a cash prize of £100 for the one voted the best.