Online conferences are no longer a fringe part of academic life. Due to the requirements of social distancing, face-to-face conferences have been cancelled and/or moved online. With each passing month, their online replacements become ever more familiar. This leaves us with an obvious question: should we go back to face-to-face conferences?
Many academics would mourn their loss as a place for networking, learning and socialising. Not to mention as an excuse for travel, reliably all expenses paid for at least some of us. However others would point to the inaccessibility of many conferences, the exclusionary costs associated with them and the ecological consequences of the conference circuit.
What are conferences for? How do different models achieve those ends or fail to? Can we fix the problems with the old model? Could the solution be a hybrid system? Do we need a clearer distinction between conferences, workshops, symposia and seminars when addressing these questions?
If you would like to reflect on these issues then please get in touch to discuss your idea. Contributions are welcome for either the Observatory (under 700 words) or the Magazine (under 1500 words). Please review our guidance for contributors for more information about style and formatting.
Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash