This particular year of the world has altogether changed the history of research due to the pandemic of coronavirus. Following the unprecedented steps to halt this virus, a huge number of scientific and research conferences are being canceled this year. However, researchers are grappling to find some alternative for networking to interact and collaborate. Sarah Horst, a planetary scientist from John Hopkins University said that having real conversations will change the prevailing scenario of the world. The real conversation idea could help scientists to make long-standing calls to address a broader range of researchers even from poor universities and those who can’t travel due to some disabilities. It will diminish the carbon footprints of unremitting travel, caused by international flights.
Risk of Infection
A large number of conferences and meetings have been canceled after the outbreak of coronavirus such as the American Chemical Society (ACS) conference which was called off due to pressure and concerns of attendees last week. The purpose of such cancellation is very obvious: any member or attendee of the conference who may have an infection can carry the risk of coronavirus to other colleagues all around the world. The conference of Biogen firm about biotechnology in Boston, dated 26th February, alone caused 70 cases of COVID-19, and that is the reason behind discouraging public gatherings and meetings globally to obstruct the extent of the coronavirus.
Benefits of Virtual Conference
The organizers and candidates have adopted online platforms as a source to share their research work via virtual conferences that portray features of physical meetings. This shift could transform the scenario of worldwide conferences by giving them an accessible and simple design of networking according to Ezequiel Ferrero, and it will also cut down travel expenses that mostly prohibit scientists to join big conferences.
Some of the members of the American Physical Society (APS) had already discussed ways to build virtual communities and many of them have set up their policies to organize virtual meetings and sessions that invite speakers to give their presentation through webcam and upload them online.
Like Ferrero, many researchers who didn’t travel to March meeting of APS in Denver, Colorado, are now able to participate in the virtual session of APS meeting. Voice and video quality are the only requirements for a successful virtual conference as per Karen Daniel who is a physicist in Raleigh at the University of North Carolina State. Daniel also added that members can easily share their ideas without any interruption and that is why she began her efforts to organize an online talk on soft-matters physics because of her great experience of the virtual gathering. In one of her sessions, it is stated that more than 100 virtual attendees participated in online talk.
The Comprehensive advantages of Virtual Conferences
Apart from the above benefits, many reasons to promote virtual conferences such as the location of meeting that sometimes inaccessible to disabled scientists, lack of health care amenities and travel constraints. Daniel also said the potential advantages of virtual conferences can convince the world to give them a try. All these reasons set up a platform as alternative options for worldwide conferences according to Divya Prasad, a planetary professor at University College London. She organized an experiential virtual meeting named Space Science in May with the collaboration of Elean Armstrong, another UCL sociologist. The conference aims to cut down travel expenses and reach a wider audience as compared to conventional conferences.
Participants of this conference will be able to watch recorded sessions before time and then join online talks of the conference. Prasad also said that the response to registration at the website for this conference was overwhelming. However, she pointed out that such a conference needs some special accommodations for disabled participants, but sadly the global health crisis did not make it happen.
Institutional feet have been agreed on a legal framework for Disabled Americans Act in 1990 which ensures such accommodations for virtual conferences. The general assembly of the European Geopghysician Union (EGU) is scheduled to coming May in Vienna but organizers also planning an alternative in case of cancellation. Undoubtedly, it would be tough to rearrange such a big conference like EGU virtually but scientists desire to have a substitute plan that could present their work in the best way.
The participants of the Lunar and Planetary conference also facing the same situation and similarly desire to arrange an alternative solution in case of cancellation of the conference. Most of the attendees are supporting the virtual conference, but Sarah Horst continued that all of a sudden holding an online conference is not correct.