Hot discussion topics from London Calling 2023 and looking forward to London Calling 2024

What makes you happy? For me, it's chatting with varied scientists about their worlds, challenges and aspirations.

Last year, at London Calling, I got to be a human watercooler by convening some wonderful attendees for a discussion to our online audience of ~5,000.

London Calling 2024 is a couple months away, and I get to do this all over again – and over on Linkedin, I would like to take requests for hot discussion topics please! Are there any scientific themes you would like to see discussed, or people you would like to see discussing them?

My highlights from these conversations were so varied.  Thidathip Wongsurawat, Jon Hale and Matt Loose came together from different perspectives; Tip’s view of cancer genomics in Bangkok was that both software (e.g. EPI2ME) and hardware (e.g. PromethION 2)  approaches are needed to open up sequencing to broader audiences (every cancer hospital in Asia, perhaps!)

Matt Loose expressed some annoyance that he wasn’t sequencing on his PromethION 2 right there and then.

Jon Hale, the first teacher to attend London Calling, shared the experience of his students sequencing daffodils, and how this experiential learning affected their perception of science as a future career.

Rich Scott and Abdul Karim Sesay came together to talk about diversity in genomics, reflecting on the diversity of talks and applications at London Calling - but also the need to build capacity in more communities.

Abdul’s perspective on the impact of local drivers, especially in maternal health and outbreak response, was profound – by being closer to communities, you are also faster as well as driven by local needs.

Rich Scott discussed the practical challenges of implementing genomics infrastructure and skills across various regions, including the specifics of sample handling, the necessity of local sequencing capabilities, and the importance of data consistency through unified bioinformatics approaches.

For both, the importance of diversity of samples for genomics research was a key part of their work – for example the Genomics England Diverse Genomes.

Loic Lesobre and Stephanie Banakis, while from the worlds of wildlife and infectious disease, have a fascinating ‘centre of the venn diagram’, an interest in how pathogens such as H1N1 (bird flu) can travel between animal and human populations – for good and for bad, and celebrating the fact that London Calling allowed cross-community conversations like this.

They joined me to preview some of their favourite presentations – Stephanie looked forward to new bioinformatics tools and conservation biology discussions, while Loic was interested in identifying endangered species and advancements in non-model species sequencing and microbiological environmental research.

Again, accessibility was a key part of this conversation. We spoke about efforts to provide equitable sequence coverage and develop tools that lower barriers to genomics research, with a focus on the need for data analysis tools that can handle large datasets in accessible formats.

The conclusion: genomics has a key role across conservation and health, and collaboration will improve outcomes for both.

Taking time to reflect, community scientific meetings aren’t just an opportunity to talk science. Discourse within and across scientific themes helps attendees to see common threads and we are proud to play a little part in that. We can’t wait to do it all again in a few months.

Check out what we have in store for London Calling 2024.