Researchers usually share their latest results by two main routes: publications in journals and presentations at conferences. As active researchers we are all now well-used to accessing journal articles in a digital format without leaving our desks. Indeed, this journal, AIP Advances, has no physical manifestation. However, when the world-wide magnetism community met at the 64th conference in this series in Las Vegas, NV in November 2019,1 few of us had any idea that conferences were also about to lose their physical form and become purely digital entities for the foreseeable future, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 65th Annual Conference on Magnetism and Magnetic Materials (MMM2020), planned to be held in Palm Beach, FL, was the first virtual conference in the series, held online on and around the dates of 2–6 November 2020. Time will tell if it is the last.
Although forced upon us by the pandemic, a virtual conference format brings some advantages. One is a much reduced carbon footprint: the travel associated with attending one large academic conference can release as much CO2 as the weekly emissions of a small city.2 Another, borne out by feedback received after the conference, is the improved accessibility of the conference for those members of our community for whom travel is difficult, e.g., due to caring responsibilities. Nevertheless, meeting colleagues to network in person was missed by many and can be especially important for early-career researchers. I hope that, as the MMM series adjusts to a post-pandemic world, my successors as General Chair find a way to balance the competing demands of the spontaneity of meeting face-to-face with the increased inclusiveness of meeting digitally.
As MMM2020 launched its call for papers early in the summer of 2020, we were in the vanguard of virtual conferences that had been conceived in that format: by that time, several other conferences in neighboring fields had taken place after rapid conversion from a physical meeting, but the idea of submitting an abstract to a virtual conference was new to most people in the global magnetism community. Nevertheless, that community, once again, submitted its best recent work to MMM, and the Program Committee received a total of 1426 abstracts to consider, leading to a final program consisting of 8 invited symposia, 61 oral contributed sessions, 34 poster sessions, and a tutorial, comprising 1229 sessioned presentations: 125 invited oral presentations (40 symposia, 69 single-speaker presentations, 3 tutorials, and 13 upgrades), 670 contributed oral presentations, and 434 poster presentations. The symposia were our flagship events and were livestreamed: they concerned Advanced Static and Dynamic Spin Depth Profiling, Antiferromagnetic Spintronics, Magnetic Nanoparticles for Biomedical Diagnostics and Imaging, New Approaches for Information Processing Coupling Spintronics and Magnonics, Next Generation Artificial Spin Ice, Novel Approaches to the Excitation and Control of Nano-scale Propagating Spin Waves, Physics and Applications in Transmission and Control of Spin-Orbit Torques, and Weyl Semimetals for Spintronics. Every member of the Program Committee has my gratitude for carrying out the task of sifting all of the submissions and coming up with such an excellent technical program.
This program gave rise to 240 manuscripts that were submitted as conference publications, of which 179 appear as papers in this AIP Advances special collection. The team of editors have my thanks for smoothly managing the peer review process that led to this.
Alongside the technical program, the conference offered a series of special events. Key events were livestreamed, including the conference tutorial on Neutrons and X Rays for Nanomagnetism, with lectures by Suzanne te Velthuis, Sebastian Wintz, and Er-Jia Guo, as well as a series of Summer School Tutorials arranged in the light of the cancellation of the IEEE Magnetics Society Summer School in 2020. Special thanks are due to Ran Fang, Dustin Gilbert, Tim Mewes, Brian Kirby, Sara Majetich, Ping Liu, and Bruce Terris for offering to give their summer school lectures, and I am especially grateful to Brian Kirby for putting together this tutorial program. Another new event was a collaboration with the IEEE Brain Technical Community, entitled Magnetism and the Brain, with talks from Paul Sajda, Gert Cauwenberghs, and Shunsuke Fukami. There were also virtual versions of many of the regular MMM events, including the Workforce Forum, Writing Workshop, Meet the Experts, Women in Magnetism, Magnetism as Art, the Young Professionals Event, and even virtual Bierstuben.
I would like to finish this editorial by thanking my colleagues on the MMM 2020 Steering Committee, whose immense dedication and tireless efforts made the conversion of the conference to virtual format about as smooth and painless as such a thing can ever be. They are: the co-treasurers, June Lau and Kristen Buchanan; the Program Committee co-chairs Beth Stadler, Sean Langridge, and Adekunle Adeyeye; the Publications Chair, Victorino Franco; the Exhibits Chair, Tim Mewes; the Awards Chair, Claudia Mewes; the Publicity Chair, Philip Pong; and the Special Events Chair, Mingzhong Wu. I am also immensely grateful for the sage advice and unstinting support of the Sponsor Representatives Bill Burke (AIP Publishing) and Rudolf Schäfer (IEEE Magnetics Society), as well as AIP Publishing staff Melissa Patterson and Diana Schlamadinger, as well as Past Chair, Shinji Yuasa and Future Chair, Victorino Franco. I must also express my tremendous gratitude and appreciation to the Simply Vintage conference management team for their unparalleled professionalism, resilience, and attention to detail: Conference Manager, Molly Bartkowski, with assistance from Shelbie Jenkins; Abstracts and Publications Manager, Regina Mohr; Exhibits Manager, Jennifer Fiske; and Registration manager; Ashley Cesare. It was an immense privilege to work alongside all these people that will live long in the memory.