AAIC 2020 Virtual Congress: Three firsts for a DISTINCT Early Stage Researcher

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the AAIC 2020 virtual congress. It was an exciting first for me, in three ways.

  1.  Presenting my work as a DISTINCT ESR

My journey as a DISTINCT Early Stage Researcher began less than a year ago, in October 2019. It was a real pleasure to end July 2020 and already have the opportunity to present my work on the FindMyApps project.

I was fortunate to have a poster accepted for AAIC 2020, outlining the protocol for our randomized controlled trial, which I will be running for the next two years.

The poster I was able to virtually present at AAIC 2020

Poster AAIC

  1. An international conference

I’ve presented posters at national conferences and I’ve attended international conferences. Never before had I had the opportunity to present at an international conference. At AAIC 2020, I exchanged comments and questions with attendees from India, the United Stated and Canada.

It’s one of the things that I love about DISTINCT, that it’s an international network. DISTINCT connects researchers in many different European countries. At AAIC 2020 I relished the opportunity to connect with researchers from even further afield.

I engaged with world experts in two areas in particular: technology for dementia and psycho-social factors in dementia. My research with FindMyApps looks at the use of technology for psychosocial support in dementia, and it was really inspiring to hear other examples of how new tools are addressing long-standing challenges.





David Neal is DISTINCT Early Stage Researcher 6


  1. A virtual congress

So far, COVID-19 is not cancelling my 2020 – it’s just sending it online. And AAIC was no different.

I wasn’t sure exactly how a ‘virtual congress’ was going to work, so I was a little apprehensive beforehand. When I first logged onto the conference website, I wasn’t disappointed.

Visually, the website was set up to look like a conference centre, which was a really nice touch. I found it easy to navigate between live sessions, presentations, posters and booths. This allowed me to virtually ‘wander around’, much like I would in real life.

I did miss the experience of meeting colleagues and making new friends over a cup of coffee. I’m not sure that networking via chat rooms will ever replace the enjoyment of the real-life experience. But all in all, it was a really enjoyable and well-organized event.

I’m immensely grateful to everyone working on FindMyApps, on DISTINCT and on AAIC 2020, to have had this opportunity – despite the challenging year that we’re all having. I hope next time we’ll be able to get together in person, to learn, to grow and to celebrate our progress towards improving care for people living with dementia.


 David Neal is an EU Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow (DISTINCT Early Stage Researcher 6). He is running a Randomized Controlled Trial of the FindMyApps project and is based at Amsterdam UMC in the Netherlands.