12 October 2015

A #hashtag contest brings a sense of innovation and partnership to IAEA's global health conference

The organizers of the #IPET2015 contest with several of the prize-winning participants

The organizers of the #IPET2015 contest with several of the prize-winning participants (photo: O. Morozova)

Vienna 12 Oct 2015. As the 3rd quadrennial international conference on Clinical PET-CT and Molecular Imaging (IPET 2015) at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna drew to a close on Friday, the organizers looked back at a highly successful conference that brought together over 500 participants and 50 guest speakers from 95 countries. The participants enjoyed a week-long exchange of ideas, showcasing research and discussions with peers and colleagues on the very latest trends in nuclear medicine, radiology and radiopharmaceutical sciences.

While five hundred participants attended, thousands more were also reached through social media. The conference was streamed live allowing participants who could not attend to post questions during lectures and sessions. It was also supported by the very latest in conference apps, but one innovation stood out and caught the imagination of hundreds of participants – the conference #hashtag contest.

Participants were invited to tag themselves on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with their comments about the conference, pictures, images or any other information they wished to post. Every evening, the #hashtag contest team, comprised of staff members from the IAEA Division of Human Health, chose 15 winners who were filtered through the #IPET2015 tag based on the popularity or originality of their posting. Then the following morning throughout the week, each of the winners was presented with the brand new PET/CT Atlas. The #hashtag contest not only added an element of excitement to the conference allowing all participants to contribute their thoughts and ideas, but also highlighted the various conference themes to a wider audience.

"Watching the viral element of the process widely unfolding and taking effect was really exciting," said Noura El-Haj, one of the contest organizers, as several prize-winning participants began to talk to their colleagues and friends about the event online. "The participants' enthusiasm at sharing their success and winning experience was overwhelming, encouraging even their colleagues and friends back home to share and like their posts."

Participants and winners in the #IPET2015 contest gather to collect  their prize of the latest PET/CT Atlas

Participants and winners in the #IPET2015 contest gather to collect their prize of the latest PET/CT Atlas (photo: Y. Pynda)

There were many touching moments as participants won their prize. They told the contest team how the conference and oncology atlas would be a very useful tool at their institutes' libraries and hospitals in their home countries.

"The impact of the contest was so surprisingly positive as we received thousands of likes, shares and comments each day" said Diana Paez, Head of Nuclear Medicine and Diagnostic Imaging Section at IAEA, and one of the lead organisers of the IPET Conference. "Given the rapidly evolving technology and the nature of social media, it is important to introduce innovative ways to reach out to people and to raise their awareness of the developments taking place in our field of work. Social media tools are becoming vital for capacity-building and getting the message across about the important work the IAEA is undertaking."

Although the focus of the conference was on the newest medical developments in the field, the #hashtag contest introduced less formal channels of communication between the participants and staff as people wanted to participate and win, and even learning what 'hashtag' means and how it is used. The photographs and names of the winners as well as the memorable moments that were caught on camera are available on the IAEA's Human Health Campus website. The creative and original posts made by hundreds of participants are also available at #IPET2015 posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The goal of the IAEA programme in Human Health is to enhance the capabilities in Member States to address needs related to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases through the application of nuclear techniques. For more information about the IAEA Division of Human Health please visit the website at