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Crafting a winning scientific programme

The 37th Annual EAU Congress is nearing its final stages of preparation and is due to take place in Amsterdam, the Netherlands on 18-21 March, 2022. Amsterdam was previously the location chosen for EAU20, but the onset of the worldwide pandemic first postponed and then cancelled the in-person congress in 2020. Since then, the EAU has held EAU20 and EAU21 in a largely virtual setting. EAU22 is set to be the first in-person annual congress since EAU19 in Barcelona.

We spoke to Prof. Peter Albers (Dusseldorf, DE), Chairman of the Scientific Congress Office (SCO), who is overseeing the design and content of the scientific programme of Europe’s largest urology event. Here, he speaks about the various considerations for this year’s congress, and what some priorities are for the Annual Congress in the coming years.

Most notably, this year we will see a four-day Annual Congress, not five as in previous years. How did the SCO come to this decision?

The main reason for condensing the programme was to create a meeting which fits better into everyone’s schedule. We start on a Friday and the last day is now Monday, and not Tuesday. We have learned from questionnaires and surveying our membership that our attendees don’t like to lose too much of their working time. Therefore, we composed a programme that prioritises the days at the end of the week. This way, we hope that we end up with more participants per day.

The programme now counts eight plenary sessions, also more than usual.

That’s right, and this is a direct consequence of condensing the programme into four days. We realised that eight slots were available for plenary sessions and we decided to use them. Plenary sessions are the most attended ones at the congress and this is why we try to compose very lively and interactive plenary sessions with case discussions and more panel discussions than in the past.

Currently, a lot of room is reserved in the programme for “Game Changing Sessions”, is this a new development?

We have noted in recent years that the Annual EAU Congress has become an attractive occasion for many researchers to first present their outstanding findings for example from large phase III trials in oncology and non-oncology. This is a quite recent development and we acknowledge this by extending the slots for so called “game-changing” research.

In urology, a lot of things change, for example the indications for perioperative systemic treatment in most of our cancers have been extended. Patients now benefit from the combination of surgery and systemic treatments around the surgical procedure in onco-urology.

We are proud that large phase III trials, also in screening and new treatments, are discussed at the EAU annual meeting now. The format is a presentation followed by an expert discussant who puts the research finding into perspective. This is very attractive for our attendees. Of course, the definitive number of these sessions depends on the amount and the quality of late-breaking, game-changing abstracts that are submitted before 4 February!

  • The Scientific Congress Office is calling for the submission of game-changing/late-breaking research. This may include phase-III trials or other developments that will have a large impact on daily practice.Submission, in abstract format, is open until 4 February 2022, 23.59 hours CET. Submit your research via e-mail to Ms. Claudia van IJzendoorn.

What are some other new session types or other developments in the programme this year?

Something we’ve changed over the last two years is how experts of the Scientific Congress Office now organise the sessions into topic-related “tracks”. We have decided to work with about eight tracks and the attendees of the meeting can easily find out what is important in their special field of expertise. We continue to present the “Best of EAU” abstracts as selected by the “track members”, discussions of the best 20 abstracts in (non-)oncology. This is independent of the award-winning abstracts because we felt that attendees would like to easily identify the highest quality abstracts from our congress. Again, those findings will be explained and discussed by the “track leaders” of the SCO.

Another thing that makes our congress attractive is the active participation of urology patients. To my knowledge we are one of the few scientific medical societies worldwide who support active patient participation even in plenary sessions. This year we’ll present for example a special lecture for a new way of organising follow-up after treatment from a patient’s perspective. We have learned that a well-organised follow-up will save more lives than some of the new systemic treatment options in oncology. The EAU, as a medical society, is proud of this new way of patient participation in a scientific meeting. We think this is the way forward in non-oncology as well as oncology.

As for what I would consider particular highlights this year… I would leave this decision to the attendees. I think the programme covers all aspects of urology and major topics are always organised in major sessions. I encourage everyone to keep checking back on as the programme becomes definitive!

Is it true that you are looking at new ways to present abstracts at the Annual EAU Congress?

In the past few years, we’ve had very good experiences with expert-guided tours of posters, with a lot of discussions. In pandemic times we do not want to proceed with exactly this format. But we will merge the positive experience from the past with the new demands. We will group 4-5 abstracts, as selected by the session composers of the sessions, and discuss them related to the specific topic. This gives much more time for discussion because we only ask for a “flash presentation” of the content, lasting 2 minutes. This way we’ll end up having sessions with in total 40 minutes of presentations, and 50 minutes of discussion time. This should work very well but it demands presenters to be exactly in time. Therefore, we will ask for pre-recorded talks.

This is one good example where we moved to the next level in applying positive developments from the virtual meetings to the in-person meeting. The same is true for the “hybrid” elements of our congress. We will transmit live from 3 major session rooms, including every plenary session. All other lectures will be webcasted and offered on-demand through the Virtual Platform.

I understand there is a conscious effort within the SCO to have a more diverse representation of urologists as faculty members, how do you approach this desire for more diversity in the congress faculty?

For the first time, we have created a transparent process within the EAU to actively recruit new members for the SCO. All sections of the EAU and especially the Young Academic Urologists have been asked to propose names of young, talented, scientifically outstanding people to support the EAU, also beyond composing our annual meeting’s scientific programme.

We received dozens of names and we will continue to promote this way of actively recruiting members to our SCO. It is obvious that not everyone can already start participating in the next round, since there are only one or two positions open per year. But year by year we actively will change the important decision-making groups towards younger and more diverse members. This will also reflect upon the composition of congress faculty. Finally, for the EAU, quality and scientific engagement leads every decision but as a society we have the responsibility to open ourselves to all members that want to be active.