Developing new conference formats to reduce flying and increase accessibility
ESCOM is developing new conference formats to reduce flying to conferences and promote conference accessibility. In 2018, ICMPC15/ESCOM10 was organised as a semi-virtual conference with four hubs distributed across the globe – in Graz (Austria), La Plata (Argentina), Montreal (Canada) and Sydney (Australia).
Developing from this, a fully virtual early career meeting was held in November 2019, a semi-virtual cross-European summer school in July 2020, and a semi-virtual international conference planned for July 2021.
Technical developments are central to facilitate these new conference formats. Standard technology is used, making the technical set up feasible in most circumstances.
Richard Parncutt and Nils Meyer-Kahlen have written guidance explaining the technical and organisational set up using in ICMPC15/ESCOM10:
Semi Virtual Conference Guidelines
A brief video has been made that explains the conference organisation and documents the experience as reported by attendees:
Video documentary on the semi-virtual conference format
Our green and inclusive conferencing project, ICMPC2021 was nominated for the green impact national awards and has been chosen as the runner-up for the Environmental Improvement Award.
ESCOM is keen to share its experience and expertise in the development of these new conference formats and welcomes questions and comments.
ESCOM Climate Action
One of the main functions of ESCOM is to organise and facilitate national and international academic conferences, maximizing their positive academic and social impact and minimizing any negative byproducts. A conference’s positive impact can be enhanced by making it more accessible. Participation should as far as possible be based on academic quality only. It should in particular be independent of personal mobility, which is often limited by financial means, location, nationality, caring commitments, or disabilities. Participation should also be independent of gender, age, and cultural background.
The main negative impact of academic conferences is greenhouse-gas emissions from flying. The semi-virtual conference format implemented at ICMPC15/ESCOM10 in 2018 demonstrated that modern internet-based communication technologies make it possible to improve academic and social aspects while at the same time reducing emissions.
Video documenting the semi-virtual conference format: link
Written guidance on semi-virtual conferences: pdf
For these reasons, the following policy directions were agreed upon at the restricted Executive Council meeting held in Brussels in February 2019.
ESCOM Climate Policy
We accept the main findings of current climate science and their urgent implications for academic conference culture, and are acting accordingly.
We therefore aim for ESCOM conferences to be relatively low in carbon-footprint.
Our climate action also promotes the accessibility and cultural diversity of our events and improves the quality and quantity of our academic output by combining virtual and live participation in e.g. multi-hub conferences.
We are encouraging international colleagues to follow our lead.