Claire Mathieu, research director at CNRS, suggests dividing each international research conference into several local conferences that would take place simultaneously.
This article is taken from the monthly Sciences et Avenir – La Recherche n°907, September 2022.
In computer science, the career is built from articles published in famous international conferences, where hundreds of people come to discuss, listen to the presentations and read the corresponding articles.
The advantages ? Instead of rummaging through a multitude of publications, you have access to a few dozen shortlisted articles and get an idea of notable advances in fields related to yours; with a good article, a young researcher can suddenly meet interested colleagues and make himself known; informal discussions build community, guide thinking, and lead to collaborations; the trip outside the usual framework offers a few days focused solely on research.
But there are also many disadvantages: the environmental cost (air travel), the inaccessibility for researchers from less wealthy countries, the time spent on organization, the health cost (virus production), etc.
More accessible places
What to do then? A systematic organization in hybrid or virtual mode? A better proposal would be to divide each international conference into several proximity conferences that would take place simultaneously, with participants from the same region meeting in the same place accessible by train, these places being interconnected. This would preserve most of the advantages and avoid or lessen the disadvantages.
By Claire Mathieu, Research Director of the CNRS, Institute for Research in Fundamental Informatics (CNRS/Université Paris Cité)