Scientific Conferences of the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century

The GCP21 Conferences

 

Genesis of the GCP21 Scientific Conferences

The first "Cassava Meeting" was held in 1988 in Cartagena, Colombia under the auspices of the "Cassava Biotech Network – CBN" and it was immediately a real success because it was providing the cassava community an opportunity to meet and exchange information that was not available before. Thereafter, CBN organized "Cassava Meetings" every 3 years all around the globe and the attendance grew regularly.

By 2003, it was obvious that we needed to re-organize "CBN" because the word "biotechnology" was no longer representing the core of these meetings and because we believed it was required to enlarge the scope to all sorts of technologies, and topics of R&D around cassava. This actually need triggered the creation of the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century in 2003, and it was decided at the same time to enlarge the scope of the "Cassava Meetings" to include all field of R&D from the laboratory to the consumer, including the field and processing work.

The last CBN-Cassava Meeting was organized by CIAT in Cali, Colombia in 2004. The decision to extend the range of cassava topics had the immediate effect of doubling the attendance but also creating a great mix of scientists from genomics and value chain work. It is difficult to get these different types of cassava people to appreciate the various types of sciences but for the last 8 years we manage to keep the momentum and we believe this is essential to build up the chain concept to link breeding with products.

The First GCP21 Scientific Conference held in Ghent, Belgium in 2008 had about 350 participants, the second GCP21 Scientific Conference in Kampala, Uganda in 2012, welcomed more than 450, and the Third GCP21 Scientific Conference, in Nanning, China in 2016, hosted more than 500 people.

Importance of the GCP21 Scientific Conferences

These international conferences are highly appreciated by the members of the community. Each time we carry a survey after the conference, more than 90% of the attendants are highly or very satisfied and they would recommend anybody to attend the next one. Many expressed their interest to have a higher frequency of these conferences, such as 2 years instead of 3, and this is now being considered.

We believe that the Scientific Conferences are the backbone of GCP21 and it should allow us to grow other activities around the basic exchange of information during the conferences. There is for example a demand for work fairs during the conference, or breakfast interviews for students and postdocs and we will work at this for the next conference. In the last conference we started to have exhibits with about a dozen booths and this was creating a lot of interactions among the participants, we will continue to do so in the future. At the last conference we also initiated "Crop Conversations", we had 8 conversations with panels of 4-5 persons and a convener and that was fairly appreciated. In 2012, we had several satellites and training sessions, before and after the conference, and that was highly attended as well. We have not been able to do so in China but we will reconsider it for the next conference. The general idea is therefore to create a number of peripheral activities around the core scientific conference to create more interactions, to attract more people, and different types of people, to participate and build a sense of the community in various ways.

The winning recipe of the GCP21 Conferences

The GCP21 Conferences are organized around 4 types of activities:

  • Plenary sessions on Day 1 and Day 5: presentations spanning from genomics to economics, through all sorts of topics and also including presentations outside of cassava to provide new ideas and new technologies for the cassava community.
  • Parallel Scientific sessions on Day 2-3-4 with presentations and posters: there are about 12 sessions covering all the topics from the field to the plate, each having an oral session and a poster session with the same chairs. And we will work at integrating more the poster session into the scientific session.
  • Evening workshops on Day 2 and 4: Evening workshops are growing in importance and they are organized by volunteers on various and changing topics. They serve as an informal melting pot of suggestions and ideas for the community.
  • Field trip on Day 3 or 6 depending on local possibilities: this is a tradition and it creates a break during the over loaded week of work and it allows attendants to relax and discover local sites and traditions.
  • Satellite and training sessions before and after the conference: this is a highly appreciated set of events that we need to continue.
  • Award ceremony and the Golden Price award: Initiated in 2008, GCP21 is now awarding a Golden Cassava Prize at each conference. The award is formalizing more and more for the nomination process, the selection and the award ceremony. We will now issue two awards at each conference. GCP21 is also awarding prizes to the best presentations and posters to young scientists.
  • GCP21 Travel Grant Program: this program initiated with the first conference is growing in importance over the years to culminate at 173 awards in China in 2016. The core funding was from BMGF complemented by various donors. The awardees are scientists, technicians and other people younger than 45 and mostly from Africa.
  • Social events throughout the conference, depending on local possibilities: this is also a tradition and it creates relaxing times and networking possibilities.
  • Communication Plan: it is now a tradition to associate a heavy communication plan to publicize the events, spread the news about cassava and advocate for the crop. It can take various forms such as exhibits, press releases, conversations, interviews, reports…

One can find these activities in the electronic proceedings that are now loaded on the GCP21 website for the 3 Conferences of 2008, 2012 and 2016 below.

The GCP21 Conferences

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