That’s a Wrap! The NCFR Annual Conference Returned to Being in Person.

Jennifer Crosswhite, Ph.D., CFLE, Director of Research and Policy Education
/ NCFR Report, Winter 2022

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After having a virtual NCFR Annual Conference for two years, in 2022 the conference was held in person in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was a huge success! People were extremely excited to be back in person again. The quality of the conference and the energy people brought with them were high! It was wonderful to see people in person.

Of course, being in person as society emerges from the COVID pandemic certainly brought changes to the conference. Notably:

Health and Safety Precautions

  • All participants were required to provide proof of receiving a primary series of a COVID-19 vaccine and at least one booster shot.
  • NCFR used WellCheck, a third-party vendor, to collect proof of vaccination. One representative from WellCheck was at the conference to assist those who did not have their vaccination status verified before arriving to the conference.
  • Participants were required to wear high-quality face masks in all conference-related event spaces, unless presenting, eating, or drinking.
  • NCFR supplied masks for attendees who did not have their own masks. NCFR also included masks with a clear shield to assist attendees with lipreading.
  • NCFR asked attendees who felt sick or had a fever to stay in their rooms to reduce the risk of spreading illness to others.
  • All conference registrations occurred online compared to previous in-person conferences when people could register at the registration desk the day of their arrival.  

Unfortunately, some presentations were cancelled due to presenters who were unable to attend in person for health reasons. In fact, I too had to leave the hotel conference area due to illness. Influenza A was circulating the Minneapolis-St. Paul area at the time. Fortunately, the NCFR Bridge allowed many to continue participating in the conference virtually – myself included!

NCFR Bridge

While NCFR offered live streaming sessions prior to the COVID pandemic, the NCFR Bridge was an enhanced method of watching live-streamed sessions compared to 2019 and earlier. NCFR incorporated elements to the NCFR Bridge that became available after hosting two virtual conference and by using Whova, the conference app. Namely, the NCFR Bridge offered:

  • Live Stream of 4 Plenary Sessions
  • Live Stream of 5 Special Sessions
  • Live Stream of 6 Invited Presenter Sessions
  • Live Q&A with presenters
  • Interactive chats during livestream sessions.
  • Access to recordings of livestream sessions for 1 full year
  • Access to all session abstracts and presenter information
  • Virtual networking through message boards
  • Ability to schedule virtual “Meet-Ups” with other conference attendees
  • Opportunity to earn Continuing Education Credit for livestreamed sessions

Both virtual and in-person audiences participated in the NCFR Bridge.

Thank You, Student Aide Virtual Moderators!

An amazing opportunity was provided to some students who signed up through the student aide program to volunteer as virtual moderators of the NCFR Bridge. These students interacted with the virtual audience and asked the presenters questions from the virtual audience. The student aides also encouraged online discussion during the sessions. This opportunity truly enhanced the experience for the virtual audience while also providing students opportunities to learn new skills. Thank you to our student aide virtual moderators: Caroline Begley, Greyson Lee, Brady Eisert, Stefanie Martinez-Fuetes, Matthew Rivas-Koehl, Genese Calloway Clark., Jeongmin Park, Qiyue Cai, Sung Hee Hon, Rui Tian, and Caitlin Fronberg. You all did an amazing job!

Quality of Conference and Conference Sessions

NCFR staff conduct an annual postconference survey  to assess conference elements that are going well and need improvement. This year was no different. The data has been collected and is currently being analyzed, but . . . I took a quick peak! Among the survey respondents, the conference experience was rated high; a 4.12 out of 5 (excellent) with 83% of respondents rating the conference as very good and excellent. An additional 14% of respondents said the conference was average and 3% of the respondents indicated the conference was fair to poor.

Overall, the conference earned high marks! For example, on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent:

  • the quality of research across the entire conference earned a 4.3 out of 5.
  • the quality of new and/or emerging research earned a 4.16 out of 5.
  • the application of research to practice or policy earned a 4.06 out of 5.

Other notable results regarding the quality of content in individual academic sessions include the following:

  • posters earned a 4.16 out of 5.
  • academic sessions earned a 4.34 out of 5.
  • workshops earned a 4.46 out of 5.

Special sessions and invited sessions were evaluated individually. Overall, these sessions also earned high scores on content quality.

  • special sessions earned between 4.14 to 4.6 out of 5, with four of the six sessions coalescing around 4.4 and 4.6 out of 5.
  • invited sessions earned between 4.11 to 4.64, with five of the eight sessions coalescing around 4.2 and 4.4 out of 5.

I look forward to further reviewing the after-conference survey for areas that performed well and areas that could be improved. NCFR staff are always striving for ways to improve the conference within the budget.

Grading Rubric

One change that occurred for the 2022 annual conference was the inclusion of a new reviewer grading rubric. The reviewing criteria remained the same as previous years where reviewers rated the following criteria on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest rating.   

The proposal:

  • has the potential to stimulate new knowledge.
  • is strongly based on existing research.
  • has a strong connection to theory.
  • is appropriate with a rigorous approach used (i.e., methods).
  • has explicit, strong contribution with respect to results, contributions, and implications.
  • is sufficiently developed.

Previously, it was up to the reviewers to determine what constituted a 5 (excellent), 4 (very good), 3 (good), 2 (fair), and 1 (weak) resulting in divergent scores for some proposals. To streamline the reviewer process, the conference improvement committee defined the criteria that should be included to earn a 5, 3, and 1. Because each of the above noted areas are included in all proposal types (i.e., pure research, pedagogy, practice, workshops), directions were provided for practice-based and workshop proposals regarding what to look for in the methods and results.

Overall, the grading rubric seemed to reduce the number of divergent scores. Anecdotal remarks from the conference program planning committee indicated the rubric was helpful in determining which proposals to accept to be presented during the conference. As such, the grading rubric will be used again when reviewing the 2023 conference proposals. This year NCFR staff hope to survey reviewers about their experience with the rubric.

Thank you to everyone who helped make the 2022 NCFR Annual Conference a success. It was great seeing those of you who attended, and I hope to see even more of you at the 2023 conference. The 2023 NCFR annual conference program planning committee has already started planning for next year’s conference with our 2023 NCFR Conference Program Chair, M. Elise Radina. See you next year!