The research community is now discussing whether conferences should be back to being in-person, continue as virtual or follow some kind of hybrid model.
I have a different proposal. I suggest taking this opportunity to “kill” a bunch of conferences. Even before the pandemic, there were quite a lot of small conferences struggling to attract enough papers to have an attractive program and that ended up being a 1 or 2-day mini-conference with the program bloated with keynote speakers, panels, and the like to disguise the lack of a deep scientific program.
We kept organizing them because
- they were an excuse to meet and see each other
- it’s not easy to make the difficult decision of stopping a conference
The pandemic has given the perfect motivation to rethink this and realize that neither of the two reasons is valid anymore. If conferences are to remain virtual (or hybrid) the social component disappears. IMHO, it doesn’t make any sense to have small virtual conferences. There are better ways to share and exchange online with plenty of social media platforms to discuss on. And sustainability concerns were already pushing us to travel less anyway so going back to the “old” model of travelling to many short conferences a year is not acceptable either.
And it’s now easier to make the decision to stop a conference since many of these small ones have already had one or two editions canceled or severely affected. So let’s be brave, put our sentimental reasons aside and improve our current “conference model”.