Post of the Month: January 2021

The Perks of Online Poster Presenting at Eurosense 2020

A review on virtually presenting a poster on rapid sensory methods compared to traditional descriptive methods at an online Eurosense

Dr. Imogen Ramsey, Teaching Associate and Post-Doctoral Research Assistant in Sensory and Consumer Sciences, University of Nottingham, UK

At the end of a very engaging, enjoyable and unique Eurosense, I sat in my flat in Nottingham in a cosy jumper and slippers on a cold and rainy day waiting for the closing ceremony to start. I was eagerly awaiting hearing the announcement of the location of Eurosense 2022 from Betina Piqueras-Fiszman and Kees de Graaf (Finland fyi) and had almost forgotten about the poster prize session awards. So I was shocked to see my name on screen as the winner of the 1st prize (whilst also panicking that I might have to come on screen to accept the award!) A congratulations also goes to the 2nd and 3rd place poster winners: Rui Costa Lima, Sense Test and Basak Oker, Givaudan.

What was the work about?

The work presented in this poster, titled ‘Rapid sensory profiling methods with consumers as an alternative to traditional descriptive analysis of non-alcoholic beers’, was conducted during my PhD at the University of Nottingham. My PhD research explored improving understanding and sensory quality of non-alcoholic beer, a growing sector here in the UK and across other European countries such as Spain and Germany. During my research I relied on descriptive profiling methods with a trained panel, but often wondered if similar results could be gained from using rapid methods with consumers.

Rapid descriptive profiling techniques have gained popularity in consumer and sensory science, as they do not require extensive panel training, are less time consuming and less expensive to run in comparison to more traditional methods such as quantitative descriptive analysis (QDA). The work conducted in this poster aimed to understand how products with a more challenging and complex profile are perceived by consumers, and whether this can be related to results conducted by a trained panel. Non-alcoholic beer is clearly a complex product, as not only does it have a temporal aspect, but it is also carbonated and normally served chilled. Rapid methods which require all samples to be presented at the same time, such as Napping, therefore contribute to increased challenges. Results for eight non-alcoholic beers were collected from a trained panel (n=10) using QDA, with consumers using Check-All-That-Apply (CATA) (n=104) and partial Napping (n=66).

And what were the results?

Multiple factorial analysis (MFA) was used to assess the similarities and differences between the methods, with positive agreement amongst trained panellists and consumers. RV coefficients were considerably higher compared to previous studies comparing similar techniques, with the RV coefficients of CATA shown as 0.843 and Partial Napping as 0.905 in comparison to QDA results. This therefore showed that rapid methods with consumers are reliable techniques for assessing the similarities and differences between complex non-alcoholic beer samples. Differences were found however in the way consumers and trained panellists described the samples, with consumers using vocabulary such as ‘citrus fruits’, whilst trained panellists used more specific terminology such as ‘grapefruit’. Further analysis is ongoing, as two different partial Napping techniques were also explored to understand the differences between partial Napping paired with Ultra Flash Profiling (UFP), and partial Napping with a pre-defined consumer lexicon.

Overall it was concluded that the selection of a rapid methodology over a more traditional approach of analysis is very much dependent on the objectives of the study, as well as the type of samples being assessed.

How does a virtual poster session at an online conference work?

The set up for the poster sessions this year included ‘virtual rooms’ for each poster within the conference app. Up to 15 visitors could attend each poster to discuss the work that was entailed, with the capabilities for the presenter of guiding the visitor through the poster by moving them around the figures and tables on screen. In addition, you were able to upload a PDF file of your poster to the app, so visitors could look at the poster in their own time and then enter the room if they had any questions.

It is hard to know what to expect from a poster session at any type of conference, as sometimes the poster sessions are planned right before the conference dinner so have limited attendance, other times you might be positioned furthest away from the tea/coffee area, and it can all feel a bit daunting with so many posters to peruse! The advantages in this case with the virtual rooms meant that you could really have personal chats with the attendees in your room, catch up with old friends and meet new ones. In addition, the use of technology meant that you could be waiting in your virtual room, whilst also visiting and chatting to other poster presenters about their work. You wouldn’t be able to do that at an in-person conference with someone positioned the other side of the conference hall!

And virtual conferences?

Overall, there are pros and cons to attending a virtual conference during a pandemic. You avoid the travelling time, can sit in your comfy clothes, enjoy your own delicious coffee whenever you like (am I the only one that thinks conference coffee always leaves little to the imagination!) and have dinner in the evening in the comfort of your own home. In addition, anyone around the world can attend (although I have real sympathy for colleagues in New Zealand who were presenting at 3am!) and the recording of live lectures means there is a source of information which you can catch up on later.

On the other hand, one of the main drawbacks of virtual conferences is the difficulty in networking with others. There’s a certain charm about meeting someone face to face which can be lost on camera. The organisers had thought this through and thus had included a ‘chat’ function in the app so you could catch up with peers, as well as planned conference calls in the breaks. In addition, I think many of us can agree that the conference dinners are also a highlight, with further opportunities to network as well as have some fun. The part I missed the most was learning about the different cultures in the cities we get to attend, as well as tasting the delicacies of the country. As Betina and Kees tucked into their gluhwein in the opening ceremony, I felt a pang of jealousy drinking a cup of English breakfast tea. Even though the organisers of Eurosense did an outstanding job of delivering the conference online last minute, I have to say I’m excited to be able to meet face-to-face in Finland in 2022, and of course sample the local delicacies!

A special thanks goes to the organising committee of Eurosense 2020, the Journal of Food Quality and Preference for sponsoring the award, my co-authors (Qian Yang, Laura Wolczynski, Peter Burgess and Rebecca Ford), as well as to everyone that visited my virtual room to discuss the work involved. For further information on the work conducted you can see the poster uploaded to the Eurosense web app (P1.066), or send me an email.

What’s next?

I submitted my thesis back in October 2020, and at the time of writing was nervously awaiting my viva. You’ll be glad to hear it all went well and I successfully defended my thesis on 20th January 2021!

In addition, I also started two very different roles within the University of Nottingham in November 2020 – one as a part time Teaching Associate in Sensory and Consumer Science, the other as a part time Post Doc looking at the use of smart technology to connect consumers with food. Both are very exciting roles and combine two different aspects I really enjoy, disseminating key sensory research through teaching, as well as researching novel areas in sensory and consumer science.

Written by (a very newly appointed) Dr. Imogen Ramsey

Teaching Associate and Post-Doctoral Research Assistant in Sensory and Consumer Sciences                                                                                                       University of Nottingham                                                                                          School of Biosciences                                                                                                 Division of Food Science and Nutrition

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