Online workshop - towards a sustainable academia
(Published in July 2017 by Mats Ekström and Amanda Ramsälv)
International research conferences are an essential component in the scientific community. Over the last years and across most of disciplines they have increased in numbers. The advantages of international exchange are obvious, however the cost in terms of all flying it carries today is indeed highly questionable. Even though we are well-informed about the enormous climate impact of flying we still seem to keep on reproducing the institutionalized way of meeting.
For example, at The University of Gothenburg the total amount of carbon emissions from flying increased 20 percent, in absolute terms, 2016 compared to 2008. Other societal institutions, such as agencies, work in tune with the preconditions that digitalization offers.
We find it remarkable that the community of science, of all groups, is far behind. In order for the community of science to claim the contribution to a sustainable society, digital conferences and workshops must be central at our universities now and in the future.
With this outlined point of departure, The Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMG), with funding from The University of Gothenburg’s Climate Fund, has started the project Digital research conferences: To develop climate-friendly formats for international conferences. What is crucial to this project is not to make traditional conferences virtual but to with help from today's technology develop new formats for research conferences/workshops.
One key aspect is to enable fruitful discussions of participants' ongoing research, central research problems, method and theory; discussions that are not bound to a certain time and space and thus could be more of a pre-peer-review session; discussions that allow for complicated and thought consuming matters.
The idea is to enable more exhaustive discussions of papers than we are able to have as participants in traditional conferences. This in terms of letting theoretical approaches and empirical analysis be object for reflections and discussions during several weeks, enabling as well qualitative thinking as the possibility to develop each others thoughts. In combining these elongated discussions with structured live sessions during the workshop period, we see the possibility of a meeting format that is not only sustainable but improved.
The aim of the project is to develop formats for climate-friendly international conferences/workshops, and it started with JMG organizing this particular online workshop addressing Truth, facts, and fake: The shifting epistemologies of news in a digital age editing a special issue of New Media & Society.
Further, what is essential is that the format together with user experiences is to be used as well by other departments, in Sweden and worldwide. This in order to make the academic work more sustainable.