19 October 2021 – Global CO2 emissions dropped during the pandemic but bounced back quickly, while environmental-friendly virtual meetings had become the norm for almost all scientists. EMBO funds international scientific courses and workshops with more than 11,000 participants annually and is concerned about the environmental impact caused by the events and related travel. As travel restrictions are easing and vaccination rates rising, where do we go from here?
Resulting from discussions with organizers of EMBO Courses & Workshops, we propose sustainability measures to reduce the CO2 footprint of in-person meetings. They are incorporated into our organizer guidelines for events that we fund, and we provide separate organizer guidelines for virtual meetings. Interviews with conference organizers and participants formed the basis of our ongoing work on a white paper, which we will use to inform our conference funding policies in the future.
To support the measures, we have taken several steps. We offer a virtual meeting platform to organizers that enables hosting of virtual and hybrid meetings as an alternative not only during the pandemic, but, should a hybrid format be chosen, also to reduce the environmental impact and enhance the inclusivity of conferences in general. We also published short guidelines on virtual meetings providing advice to organizers so that they can make the most of virtual conferences. Fee waivers and childcare grants are available to participants (via the organizers) for virtual and hybrid EMBO Courses & Workshops.
Finally, news posts on the EMBO blog provide tips for virtual conferencing and invite further discussion of the topic.