There is a growing realisation, especially with our experience with virtual meetings during the covid-19 pandemic, that virtual video meetings are a practical alternative to travelling to meetings.

Virtual meetings can be more equitable. People who find it difficult to travel for affordability, health, personal or work reasons can attend. Video calls provide opportunities to communicate in writing (chat messages), orally and visually. The meeting can be recorded and auto-transcribed for those who could not attend or who could not follow the discussion due to language limitations.

Virtual conferences are not necessarily cheaper to organise due to the costs of the online platforms and the need to manage them, as we found organising the 5th World Conference on Marine Biodiversity. But smaller meetings can be organised with simpler communication tools (zoom, google meets, teams, skype, etc.).

Is the full cost of travel considered? The time to organise, the time travelling, the time at the meeting, and the stress to finish work before departing and catch up upon returning, and effects on productivity. Some people rarely travel and are very productive and successful, so it is not essential.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change requires all its authors to attend meetings, sometimes located in places based on politics rather than convenience, accessibility and cost. If an author makes a “conscientious objection” to this travel they are forced to resign as authors. Maybe this policy will change for the primary science body that has repeatedly shown why we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change.

Some good resources are 

Flying Less in Academia: A Resource Guide

Reducing air travel in academia

The future of meetings has links to many articles on this subject.

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