Using ECMWF’s Forecasts 2020: embracing the virtual challenge

UEF 2020 image

The theme of UEF2020 was ‘Keeping users at the heart of operations’.

ECMWF virtually met its data, product and service users during this year’s Using ECMWF’s Forecasts event (UEF2020) from 1 to 4 June 2020. The online meeting attracted 227 people from 43 countries – many more than ECMWF has been able to accommodate at previous UEF events on its premises.

The theme of the meeting, ‘Keeping users at the heart of operations’, encouraged the exploration of end-user needs. Participants discussed how weather and environmental information providers can meet those needs by delivering added-value outputs.

They also heard about how ECMWF transforms research and technical developments into new products and services to the benefit of its users in Member and Co-operating states and beyond.

In addition to plenary session talks, a variety of formats were used: Speakers’ Corner talks, poster sessions, a User Voice Corner and interactive activities.

UEF 2020 participant countries

UEF2020 attracted 227 attendees from 43 countries.

Engaging with users virtually

The UEF meeting offered an opportunity for participants to showcase their activities and responses to user needs.

It also provided a framework for participants to share their experiences with ECMWF data and provide feedback on ECMWF products.

During live-streamed oral presentations, participants could post their questions using a comment box. Alternatively, they could post them on a dedicated web page, where the conversation could continue beyond the presentation.

UEF 2020 presentation screenshot

Jenny Rourke and Michael Sleigh gave a presentation on the research-to-operations process at ECMWF.

The virtual poster sessions were organised around virtual rooms where attendees could explore posters and drop into a meeting to discuss them with the author(s).

This year’s virtual format meant that UEF could accommodate more posters than usual from all over the world.

Conversations over Coffee took place during coffee breaks and provided attendees with an opportunity to meet ECMWF staff members and other participants and discuss topics of interest.

UEF 2020 coffee conversation screenshot

Conversations over coffee helped attendees to meet one another and provided a forum to discuss topics they were interested in.

The social media conversation

#UEF2020 trended well among ECMWF users:

@gpbalsamo - #UEF2020 reviewed the @ECMWF progress in forecasting in recent years and in particular from the latest cycle a year ago. Amazing the improvements over time, measured w.r.t. #ERA5

@FiJohnsonWater - Great to attend #UEF2020 @ECMWF from the comfort of my couch and occasionally in my pjs due to time differences! Great virtual meeting accessible with varying start times, repeated presentations and recordings. It’s set a high standard for low carbon meetings.

@meteomueller - @FPappenberger announced the next exciting develops at @ECMWF at #UEF2020: Q1/2021 vertical resolution of ENS increases to 137 levels

@123Orietta - #UEF2020 Very interesting and useful! Great @ECMWF

Esperanza Cuartero, one of the organisers of this year’s event, said: “An incredible number of #UEF2020 tweets were posted, and Twitter helped us to keep the attendees, as well as users interested in ECMWF activities, informed in real time about what was happening at UEF2020.”

Positive feedback

Attendees commented that they were pleased about UEF2020 taking place online and provided positive feedback on the sessions and the opportunities to engage with ECMWF staff.

The most quoted word to describe UEF2020 was ‘communication’. This is fitting as UEF’s spirit has always been to facilitate two-way communication with users. Other words that were often used to describe UEF2020 were ‘collaboration’, ‘openness’ and ‘reliability’.

UEF 2020 word cloud

An interactive session at UEF2020 asked attendees what this year’s theme ‘Keeping users at the heart of operations’ meant to them. This is what they said.

Overview talks from ECMWF staff were live-streamed in the morning and repeated in the afternoon to reach wider audiences. Sessions also started early in the morning UK time and ran into late afternoon to cover as many time zones as possible.

“We wanted to make sure that we could reach as many ECMWF users as possible and time zone considerations were key to this,“ says Becky Hemingway, who put together the UEF2020 programme and oversaw its content.

“The virtual format posed many challenges but also plenty of opportunities, which we have seized to reach out to the wide community of ECMWF users."

More information

Presentations, recordings and posters are available on the UEF 2020 page on the ECMWF website.