By Cathrin Stöver
The first TNC I ever attended took place in Dresden, in 1998. I had been at GÉANT (then DANTE) for about 10 months and I was responsible for our stand, showcasing TEN-34, the pan European R&E network, which actually only had one 34Mbps link, namely between Germany and Switzerland – TEN-34 was very much aspirational in naming. I had only received an exhibitor’s pass and moped shyly about when Karel Vietsch (the late General Secretary of TERENA, I still miss him) came along and told me, “of course, you can join the sessions, just sit quietly in the back…”, which is of course what I did. And I enjoyed myself hugely. From that moment on, I was hooked to TNC and this community! The good part about being one of the few women around and certainly the youngest at the time is that I probably met each and every attendee at TNC98 in Dresden, (it felt like a small event with about 120 people, but my memory may be wrong). A lot of these wonderful colleagues and friends are still active in our community and we see each other, year after year at TNC, happily just checking in with each other, big smiles and the good feeling that comes with knowing each other for quite a while now.
I have not been to all TNCs since. For a while, the number of attendees from DANTE was limited, so we made sure across the teams that we rotated our attendance, I was off on maternity for two TNCs and twice I was sick and could not attend, but I would say that I have been at the vast majority of the 21 TNCs since Dresden and I have certainly seen our conference grow in confidence and ambitiousness, number of parallel tracks, sponsors and certainly in number of participation and specifically participation from around the world. If TNC19 in Tallinn is your first experience you will find that you are surrounded by about 800 people from over 70 countries and we have a full exhibition floor. There will still be a GÉANT stand and our pan-European network is no longer just aspirationally named, but a major global player interconnecting the world of R&E networks (check out our new map). You will realise that a lot of people you see all seem to know each other – even better, you will see that we actually and in general really like each other! Welcome! Good vibes, good groove wherever you go.
“TNC was more than your regular conference, but rather, well, it may sound off, really rather like a family get-together.”
A few years back I talked to Anna Wilson about these good vibes – she also felt that TNC was more than your regular conference, but rather, well, it may sound off, really rather like a family get-together. Anna and I actually planned to do a lightning talk on this, but lacked the time to pull it off. At the time, I said to Anna that to me, TNC feels like the almost forgotten human experience of a gathering. Call them groups, extended families, tribes, (read organisations) and they come together once a year. They bring their elders, grown-ups and youngsters, they discuss the past and future, success and failures, who should lead them where and why, plan joint-activities, hold each other accountable, but also eat and party together, laugh, smile, share pictures of their loved ones and queue up to have pictures taken at the photo-booth. They anticipate this gathering so much, that they even track each other on the #road2tnc . Not sure about you, but I have certainly never come across anything similar anywhere else. And this year, at TNC19, I expect more EC participation than ever, through the Emerging NREN Programme, we will again extend our global participation and there will be more young community members thanks to the Future Talent Programme. We may have our ups and downs in our community and fiercely agree to disagree at times, but in essence, this is a community which has successfully grown now for many, many years, into all corners of the world.
When you look at the programme of this year’s TNC, you will see how wide and varied it is – Network, Trust and Identity, Security, Policy, Innovation and more. But we will also be busy outside of the formal sessions: It is good timing to come together in June – our community is seeing the developments in Horizon Europe and towards the European Open Science Cloud, and we will need time to talk to each other on how specifically the EOSC will affect GEANT, but even more so how FAIR Data and Open Science initiatives will affect NRENs nationally. TNC19 will be a great moment to exchange on these topics, and come to a better understanding where we are heading to – together – over the next years.
So, yes, I really look forward to TNC19 – even after 21 years, this is my favourite conference. I love that all of the conference is hand-made by our community – from the events organisation and the design all around it to the programme committee, the network, eduroam, the show we get to see every day in the plenary hall, all of it is put together by the community for the community! It is a great collaborative project that PSNC, NORDUnet and GEANT pull off year after year!
And with that, I thank the TNC Events Team, our host EENET of HITSA and also our Programme Committee and PC Chair, and I hope that I can see you all again on the #road2tnc and then in Tallinn – safe travels!