An Interview with Dr. Joanna Porankiewicz-Asplund on the 5th Anniversary of The Global Plant Science Events Calendar

The Global Plant Science Events Calendar turns five years old this year. This plant community resource is the most comprehensive list of worldwide events for the plant community. 

Rachel Belsky, ASPB Peer Review & Content Coordinator, sat down with Dr. Joanna Porankiewicz-Asplund, Technical Support Manager at Agrisera, to hear more about how The Global Plant Sciences Events Calendar has grown over the last five years. 


Let’s start with the basic intention. How did the Global Plant Science Calendar come to be? 

There were two things that led to the calendar’s development. Agrisera supports quite a lot of conferences, like 30 conferences per year, either by donating products or education materials, or presenting there. I was receiving requests to support specific meetings, as well as searching for meetings we could support. As you can imagine, it was a bit chaotic. Additionally, we wanted to ensure the community could access all these events and keep track of upcoming events. 


So that’s where the idea for a global calendar came in? 

Yes! The calendar allowed people to come to me with all their requests and have them organized in one place. It would also be searchable and provide the community with an easy way to share their upcoming events. 

Interesting. So how exactly did Agrisera and ASPB collaborate on this calendar? 

I was thinking about this idea for a long time: how can we bring the plant science community together in these events and make this process more efficient for everyone involved? Agrisera didn’t quite have the resources at the time to make it happen. I approached ASPB with the idea, and luckily, they had the software and muscles to put it into place! 

The Tockify platform was basically ready for us to use. We wanted to make sure that our calendar was able to be curated and monitored, so people couldn’t just submit anything. The platform and collaboration with ASPB allowed us to bring the vision to life. 


You mentioned curation, which seems important. Someone actively monitoring the calendar for sketchy meetings, rescheduled or cancelled events… 

Yes, exactly. We keep a close eye on it. This calendar is meant to act as a resource, but also to protect our community from predatory meetings and other things. Unfortunately, these things exist. People can know the information they are getting from our source is reviewed, up-to-date and legitimate. 


I noticed that the platform is very user-friendly and accessible. 

Yes, functionality was a big factor. You can check out keywords (ranging from things such as food security, education and outreach, and plant molecular biology to virtual and in-person) to get an idea of what the event will focus on or how the information will be presented. You also have three different views to try on the calendar, depending on how you process the information best. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for those in our community to engage with others. 

We also made this short video to help users submit events. 


How has the calendar evolved since its origin five years ago?
That’s an interesting question. The calendar started in 2019 and the pandemic started in 2020. We had to think about how we could best serve the community in that chaotic time and had to pivot a bit, as many community-oriented places did. 

The Global Plant Calendar ended up fulfilling a very important function during the pandemic. And if you look at the statistics, there were really a lot of things happening during the pandemic time in the global plant sciences community.  A lot of meetings were cancelled, and everyone was safe in lockdown in various parts of the globe, but the community still came together in online meetings or Zoom recordings and the like. The calendar was a vital resource for people looking to advance their education and keep in contact with others. There were a lot of webinars and workshops of different types — also events which were free of charge. 

And you know, today, the Global Plant Council assigns their events to this calendar. Over the last few years, our calendar became recognized by organizers of these quite recognized meetings like GRC (Gordon Research Conferences). I think that shows the legitimacy and usefulness of this platform. 


Absolutely. Not to mention, building this through the pandemic is quite an accomplishment.
Right! I’ll add that post Pandemic, it continued, with a lot of free events open for people worldwide. If you just can’t fit the time zone, or don’t know about an event happening on the other side of the world, the calendar will inform you about where and how to access it. 

In that way, the calendar has been successful in a lot of different times that the world’s gone through. Right now, the calendar typically categorizes about 200 conferences, online events, workshops, congresses, seminars, everything. It’s being used by all sorts of professionals and students around the world. 

Wow. It really sounds like a sustainable platform that can benefit the global community for years to come.
Yes, it looks like it! So, I was happy to see this and I’m very grateful to ASPB for seeing the potential in it. 


How do people typically find the calendar? 

ASPB is telling me that this is the most visited page on Plantae. So, it seems people are searching for and finding this resource quite often on their own. 

Agrisera is actively informing people with various materials. We have postcards which we bring to conferences or add to shipping and educational materials in orders. It has a QR code directly to the calendar. We also make posters with the QR codes on them, so students and educators can scan it and get directly to the page. 

Does the calendar focus on any industries or categories? 

Well, we don’t approve of every event that’s submitted (like those in pharmaceutical or healthcare will be rejected immediately) but it’s very broad, to capture all members looking for an event or workshop. Agriculture, ecology, plant molecular biology, genomics, statistics, leadership. All different aspects of plant science. So not only people in the lab, right, but also the Global Plant Council — they work more with legislation on climate change issues and other types of events, and they also will be included in the calendar. 


There’s most likely something for everyone, then. 

Exactly. The calendar is about inclusion, education and quality. We promote smaller, local meetings along with the big, popular ones. 

And you can think about it like this: if you dive into the cell and look at the organelles and research about it, and then if you take that up and translate it into the tree standing in the forest and being exposed to the climate, the calendar will cover almost every event remotely related to that process. So, this is a metaphor for what this calendar is really covering. It’s all the factors of plant science, internal and external. Big and small. 


That’s beautiful. Do you know what the community response has been? 

Aside from the calendar growing in popularity and numbers, I have received personal feedback from researchers about the calendar. And it’s been very, very positive. It’s beneficial for Agrisera to get this kind of interaction with the community, since we’re all about supporting the community in new and accessible ways. And that’s a mutual goal with ASPB, too, which is why we’re so thrilled with the collaboration and success of this initiative. 


Access The Global Plant Sciences Calendar here. 

Have something you want to share? Submit an event here. 

Join thousands in following @PlantSciEvents for updates on the latest plant science events!