Virtual Conferences More Inclusive and Better for the Environment
TerraGreen|January 2022
A research team led by engineers found that virtual conferences are more inclusive than in-person events, and also carry a smaller environmental footprint.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought work travel and in-person conferences to a halt, but new research finds this shift has made it easier for more people who could not previously attend these events to participate and lowered their environmental footprint.

A research team led by engineers from The University of Texas at Austin analysed several science conferences that first went virtual during the early months of the pandemic. In a new paper, published recently in Nature Sustainability, the researchers examined the environmental, social and economic costs of virtual conferences compared with in-person events and analysed how the shift online altered participation by women, early-career researchers, and scientists from underrepresented institutions and countries.

The study found that virtual events lower costs and reduce time and travel commitments that have previously held some conferences back from attracting diverse groups of attendees. Also, the environmental costs of hundreds or thousands of people flying from around the world to attend a conference are eliminated.

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