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At the 4th European Congress of Epileptology (ECE) in Florence, the ILAE Commission on European Affairs set up a subcommission to evaluate the quality of scientific presentations (1). The aim was to provide delegates with feedback on how their presentation was rated by peers (including suggestions on how to improve their work and communication) and to improve choice of speakers and program structure at future meetings. This initiative was rated favorably by everyone involved, and it was therefore repeated at the 5th ECE in Madrid, with some improvements suggested by the experience acquired in Florence. As these evaluations are being increasingly used in various regions of the world as part of a global ILAE effort to improve the quality of epileptology congress meetings, we provide herewith a concise summary of the procedures conducted in Madrid and their outcome.

METHODS

  1. Top of page
  2. METHODS
  3. RESULTS
  4. CONCLUSIONS
  5. Acknowledgments
  6. REFERENCE

Evaluation of poster presentations

Candidate evaluators were identified from the list of evaluators at the 4th ECE, Medline searches, personal contacts, and advertising in congress announcement brochures. Only evaluators who were first authors in at least one article in a peer-reviewed journal and were presenting authors of a contribution at a 5th ECE were accepted as candidates. A total of 94 evaluators finally agreed to participate.

Evaluation of platform presentations

These were evaluated by the audience with assessment forms specific for each type of session (original contributions, symposia, discussion groups, seminars, and satellite symposia), which included questions about clarity of presentation, relevance, scientific content, methodology, validity of results, and (for satellites) commercial bias. For main program symposia, session chairpersons also were asked to write a brief report for each presentation.

Support structure

An evaluation booth was available at the congress center to assist evaluators with their tasks. Written instructions were provided to each evaluator. When an address was available, the results of the evaluation were sent to the corresponding author after the congress.

RESULTS

  1. Top of page
  2. METHODS
  3. RESULTS
  4. CONCLUSIONS
  5. Acknowledgments
  6. REFERENCE

Poster evaluations

A total of 597 poster presentations were scheduled in four different sessions and were attended by 1,830 (mean, 457) delegates. Each evaluator was assigned a mean of 12 posters (two evaluators per poster). Seventeen (18%) evaluators were not able to attend their assigned poster sessions. When neither of the assigned evaluators was available, the poster was evaluated by a member of the evaluation committee (A.G.N. or I.G.M.). By using this procedure, all posters were evaluated by at least one person, and the majority were evaluated by two.

Platform evaluations

A total of 70 sessions, symposia, discussion groups, and seminars were evaluated (Table 1). These were attended by 12,820 delegates (mean, 183) who returned 3,030 (23.6%) evaluation forms. Mean rating, on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the optimum), was 4.11 (range, 3.61–4.38). Individual ratings of platform presentations are not included in this report.

Table 1. Summary of evaluation ratings for different session types
Session type NoAttendance (mean per event)Evaluation forms returned (%)Average rating
  1. Ratings were on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the optimum).

Presidential Symposium 1960  109 (11.3)4.29
Neurobiology Symposium 1204   27 (13.2)3.64
Bursary Award Symposium 1230Not evaluated
Spanish Chapter Symposium 1 20Not evaluated
Discussion groups242,307 (96)   833 (35.9)4.11
Main sessions 41,154 (288)  270 (34.9)4.33
Platform sessions192,021 (106)  513 (28.7)
Satellite symposia 65,134 (856)  750 (16.2)4.22
Tapas seminars 5 359 (72)  145 (42.4)4.32
EUREPA Seminars in Spanish 2 123 (62)   31 (25.4)3.61
EUREPA Breakfast Seminars 8 558 (89)  352 (55.3)4.38
Total7012,8203,030 (23.6)4.11

The ratings for the six satellite symposia were within the range reported for the other sessions. Possible commercial bias in satellites was scored by the audience, with a mean score of 4.09, with a range from 3.41 to 4.49 (5 indicating no perceived commercial bias).

General comments from participants

Evaluation forms solicited general comments and suggestions. Most comments expressed satisfaction with the selection of topics and the quality of the meeting. The most common suggestions included the requests for preparation of printed educational material (syllabus), more time for open discussion after lectures, and more practical examples during seminars and discussion groups. Complaints suggested that some speakers exceeded their allotted time and that some changes in the program (usually a change of speaker) had not been publicized in advance. Other delegates remarked that some slides were too crowded and that overlapping occurred among lectures.

Missing presentations

Sixteen (14%) platform contributions and 108 (18%) posters were not presented. Most of these were from countries with low per-capita income and were presumably related to financial difficulties with attending the meeting.

Awards

European Epilepsy Academy (EUREPA) awards were assigned by a special panel based on scientific excellence, clarity of presentation, originality of study, and relevance of results. The winners were the following:

  • • 
    L. Alonso-Nanclares (coauthors: M.C. González-Albo, R. Garbelli, R. Spreafico, and J. de Felipe) (Madrid, Spain, and Milano, Italy): “Alterations of synaptic circuits in cortical dysplasia” (poster).
  • • 
    D. Moneta (coauthors: E. Lin, C. Richichi, D. Colella, M. Aliprandi, H. Herzog, M.J. During, and A. Vezzani) (Milano, Italy; Auckland, New Zeland; Sydney, Australia; and Philadelphia, U.S.A.): “Neuropeptide Y (NPY) antiepileptic activity is revealed by rAAV-mediated peptide overexpression in rat hippocampus and by Y2 receptor knock-out mice” (platform).
  • • 
    H. Potschka (coauthors: M. Fedrowitz and W. Loescher) (Hannover, Germany): “Pharmacoresistant epilepsy: Impact of multidrug-resistance protein 2 expression” (platform).
  • • 
    C. Richichi (coauthors: M. Rizzi, S. Gaccia, G. Guiso, J.A. Gorter, E. Aronica, R. Bagnati, R. Fanelli, M. D'Incalci, and A. Vezzani) (Milano, Italy, and Amsterdam, The Netherlands): “Limbic seizures induce P-glycoprotein in rodent brain: functional implications for pharmacoresistance” (platform).
  • • 
    L. Wittner (coauthors: Z. Borhegyi, P. Halasz, S. Czirjak, L. Eross, T.F. Freund, and Z. Magloczky) (Budapest, Hungary): “Preservation of perisomatic inhibitory input of CA1 pyramidal cells and dentate granule cells in the hippocampus of patients with temporal lobe epilepsy” (platform).

CONCLUSIONS

  1. Top of page
  2. METHODS
  3. RESULTS
  4. CONCLUSIONS
  5. Acknowledgments
  6. REFERENCE

By taking advantage of the experience acquired at the 4th ECE in Florence (1), we implemented a number of adjustments to improve the efficiency of evaluations. These included improved procedures for the selection of evaluators, a decreased workload for evaluation panels (who focused on poster presentations only), the availability of back-up evaluators whenever the scheduled panel could not be present, and wider involvement of audiences in the evaluation of platform sessions. Thanks to these adjustments, 100% of poster presentations could be evaluated (compared with 80% in Florence), and more representative ratings were obtained for oral presentations. Overall, sessions received favorable quality ratings, with scores of ∼4 on a 5-point scale, similar to those obtained at the 4th ECE. The quality of satellite symposia also was rated favorably, although it is notable that delegates perceived undue promotional bias at some of the satellites.

The evaluation system allows presenters to receive valuable feedback about the quality of their work and the effectiveness of their presentations. This should lead to better interaction with peers and, ultimately, improved quality of research and communication. Feedback from delegates also will be useful for the planning of future congresses. Because of this, evaluations will continue to be an important component of the program at the 6th ECE in Vienna from May 30 to June 3, 2004. This experience may also prove useful to organizers of other epilepsy congresses worldwide, contributing to the common aim of improving quality of education and research in our discipline.

Acknowledgments

  1. Top of page
  2. METHODS
  3. RESULTS
  4. CONCLUSIONS
  5. Acknowledgments
  6. REFERENCE

Acknowledgment:  We thank the ILAE Commission of European Affairs and EUREPA for their support and suggestions. Special thanks are due to the following colleagues who participated in the evaluation process: G. Alarcon, A. Aldenkamp, J. Alving, S. Arroyo, A. Arzimanoglou, P. B. Augustijn, G. Baker, M. Baldy-Moulinier, G. Bauer, M. Baulac, C. Baumgartner, A. Becker, E. Beghi, E. Ben-Menachem, E. Bilir, G. Brathen, M.P Canevini, O.C. Cockerell, A. Crespel, J.P. Cunha, S. Zuczwar, V. Darbinyan, J. de Felipe, N. Delanty, T. Deonna, C. Dravet, O. Dulac, J. Duncan, O. Eeg-Olofsson, J. Engel, E. Eskazan, N. Fejerman, C.D. Ferrie, L. Fusco, I. García-Morales, P. Gelisse, P. Genton, G. Gobbi, G. Groppel, A. Guekht, C. Gürses, M. Halasz, E. Hirsch, A. Hufnagel, S. Johannessen, P. Kahane, K. Kaila, D.G.A. Kasteleijn-Nolst Trenité, R. Kohling, H. Kubova, D.M. Kullmann, E. Le Guern, A.E. Lehesjoki, H. Lerche, G. Luef, K. Malmgren, Z. Martinovic, Th. Mayer, R. Michelucci, J. Mifsud, M. Nikanorova, S. Noachtar, F. Onat, C. Ozcara, P. Patsalos, E. Pauli, E. Perucca, M. Pirmohamed, P. Plouin, J. Regis, P. Ritva, G. Rubboli, J.W.A.S. Sander, D. Schmidt, B. Schmitz, W. Serles, G. Sills, H. Stefan, T. Taira, N. Tatishvili, P. Tinuper, T. Tomson, M. Topcu, E. Trinka, B. M. Uthman, P. Van Bogaert, C.A. Van Donselaar, W. Van Emde Boas, W. Van Paesschen, A. Vezzani, F. Vigevano, V. Villanueva, H.G. Wieser, M. Wolff, and G. Zaccara. We thank staff members D. Shirley, L. McLoughlin, H. Marano, Ch. Williams, S. Connolly, and I. García-Morales for their assistance in coordinating the evaluation procedures and in processing the data. We are also grateful to all delegates who took the time and effort to fill out the evaluation forms.

REFERENCE

  1. Top of page
  2. METHODS
  3. RESULTS
  4. CONCLUSIONS
  5. Acknowledgments
  6. REFERENCE
  • 1
    Perucca E, Arroyo S, Baldy-Moulinier O, et al. ILAE Commission Report: evaluations and awards at the 4th European Congress on Epileptology, Florence, 7-12 October 2001. Epilepsia 42: 13668.