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The virtual fishbowl: bringing back dynamic debates to medical conferences
  1. Felix Muehlensiepen1,
  2. Johanna Mucke2,
  3. Martin Krusche3,
  4. Sandra Kurkowski4,
  5. Gerlinde Bendzuck5,
  6. Ina Koetter6,
  7. Vanessa Lemarié7,
  8. Manuel Grahammer8,
  9. Martin Heinze1,9,
  10. Hendrik Schulze-Koops10,
  11. Johannes Knitza11
  1. 1 Center for Health Services Research, Faculty of Health Sciences, Brandenburg Medical School Theodor Fontane, Neuruppin, Brandenburg, Germany
  2. 2 Policlinic and Hiller Research Center, University Clinic Duesseldorf, Heinrich-HeineUniversity, Duesseldorf, Germany
  3. 3 Medical Department, Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Charité—Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  4. 4 Department of Palliative Medicine, Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat Erlangen-Nurnberg, CCC Erlangen-EMN, Universitätsklinikum Erlangen, Erlangen, Bayern, Germany
  5. 5 Deutsche Rheuma-Liga Bundesverband e.V, Berlin, Germany
  6. 6 Division of Rheumatology and Systemic Inflammatory Rheumatic Diseases, University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf and Clinic for Rheumatology and Immunology, Bad Bramstedt, Germany
  7. 7 Ada Health GmbH, Berlin, Germany
  8. 8 ABATON GmbH, Berlin, Germany
  9. 9 University Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Brandenburg Medical School Theodor Fontane, Immanuel Klinik Rüdersdorf, Rudersdorf, Brandenburg, Germany
  10. 10 Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Department of Medicine IV, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Munich, Germany
  11. 11 Department of Internal Medicine 3, Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat Erlangen-Nurnberg, Erlangen, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Felix Muehlensiepen, Center for Health Services Research, Faculty of Health Sciences, Brandenburg Medical School Theodor Fontane, 16816 Neuruppin, Germany; felix.muehlensiepen{at}

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‘A good discussion increases the dimension of everyone who takes part’—Randolph Bourne (American writer, 1886–1918).

COVID-19 is changing clinical routines of healthcare providers worldwide. This also affects communication and knowledge exchange. Webinars and virtual conferences have become the ‘new normal’.1 Although digital conferences enable the transfer of research results and medical knowledge, opportunities for participation and discussion are very limited.2 Dynamic debates and panel discussions have become scarce during COVID-19 lockdown.

Recently, the fishbowl technique has been successfully implemented in rheumatology conferences.3 It is a validated method, fostering open group discussions and engagement of all audience members.3 4 By including an expert panel (inner circle) and one empty chair for an alternating audience member, the technique promotes a dynamic and direct exchange with the audience.

To determine whether the fishbowl technique …

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  • Handling editor Josef S Smolen

  • Twitter @KruscheMartin, @SandraKurkowski, @ina_kotter, @JK77775

  • Contributors FM, JK, JM, IK, MK, SK participated in the conception of the study and data interpretation and drafted the manuscript. All authors participated actively in the discussions and had a prior methodological training. All gave substantial intellectual contributions, and read, revised and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research. Refer to the Methods section for further details.