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COMFOCUS at Pangborn Conference 2023

Comfocus was present at Pangborn conference through several members of Consortium Partners. It is quite a central conference in the domain of food consumer science and linked to one of the leading journals within the field. In a sense, the conference/domain covers the various fields of COMFOCUS on food consumer science, both through self-report measures and through emerging technologies like psychophysiological measures and digital representation tools (e.g. VR/AR). But, also well beyond that core, to also cover links to food technology, food design, the eating process and behavioural nutrition. It is a huge conference taking place every two years alternating between US and Europe with over 1000 guests from academia, applied research and companies. The broadness of the field signals is one of the key COMFOCUS issues, namely that the various contributions and subdomains run the risk of becoming disconnected. Hans van Trijp was invited to be panel member in one of the sessions to discuss this issue with the audience. The workshop session called “what is sensory and consumer science? An involving field (still) in need of a definition” was organised and moderated by Herb Meiselman, Sara Jaeger and Davide Giacalone, with Paula Varela (NOFIMA), Richard Popper (P&K Research) and Hans van Trijp (COMFOCUS/WUR) as panel members. Here are some important COMFOCUS-relevant take outs from the meeting:
  • There was a plea made to bring more structure to the field. Of course, it is important to let 1000 flowers blossom, but as a field there is a need for structure, such that learning from each other and leveraging each other’s data and results is further optimised. That is in line with the COMFOCUS philosophy of making data FAIR to ensure effective learning at higher scale and level. However, it is also clear that this thinking is not yet mainstream, also not in this domain. To many there seems an almost instant association with data harmonization and data sharing in terms of “limiting creativity and innovation” and ”privacy and ownership issues”. But the impression is also that the field is moving in that direction of more harmonization and data integration interest, and has progressed since the former conference.
  • There is a growing stream of researchers with substantial interest in integrating and exploiting data sets through the use of digital technology, with presentation on AI and VR/ER, but also on machine learning and complex modelling and applying natural language processing tools for sensory and consumer data.
  • Particularly interesting was a dedicated workshop on “How to leverage digitalization in sensory science for value creation”. This session brought together various of the thought leaders in this subdomain, including companies and universities (among whom Betina Piqueras from COMFOCUS/WUR). Betina briefly presented the COMFOCUS approach as part of how education can anticipate on these developments. 
Link to the programme: