Transitioning to sustainable academic conferences needs more experimentation and reflection

Rob Raven, Paris Hadfield, Brianna Butler, Jennifer Eagleton, Gael Giraud, Merin Jacob, Jochen Markard, Katharina Schiller, Mark Swilling, Mapula Tshangela

Research output: Contribution to journalComment / DebateOtherpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Non-technical summary
Accelerated decarbonization of academic conferences is necessary and urgent. Despite the window of opportunity that COVID-19 created for rethinking conferences, there is a risk of slipping back into old habits now that restrictions are lifted. This commentary reports on recent experiences with a unique, sustainable approach to academic conferencing involving an international partnership and hub model across three continents. There is a need to continue to experiment with and implement new modes of sustainable academic conferencing.

Technical summary
In response to increasing demands to move away from carbon-intensive academic conferences, and a need to address social justice issues, the author-team designed, implemented, and experimented with a new conference model. Three key-design choices informed the model. First, instead of the common single-host-single-location approach, we established a partnership between three universities across three continents. Second, we adopted a hub model of three online conference days, followed by three non-hybrid, in-person only conference days. Third, we sought to accommodate global participation by organizing each of the online conference days during daylight hours in the respective time zones. We find that the model promotes less air travel and improved global south participation. Our approach adds to a growing number of experiments with new modes of academic conferencing in a world that is facing climate and inequality crises.

Social media summary
Decarbonizing academic conferences is necessary and urgent. This commentary reveals experiences with a hub-based format.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere16
Number of pages3
JournalGlobal Sustainability
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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