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The changing face of conferences


Joachim Mnich is the Director for Research and Computing

The 2021 EPS-HEP conference was another online-only gathering, serving up a feast of physics to a record audience from 26 to 30 July. As conferences get back to being in person, there are lessons to be learned from the COVID conference experience

Visitors to the EPS-HEP 2021 homepage were greeted with an image of the host city’s famous harbour and the wonderful Elbphilharmonie concert hall, designed by Herzog & de Meuron. But conference participants sadly had no chance to visit Hamburg’s new landmark, since the conference was held online.

Conferences have been different throughout the pandemic, and in some ways diminished, without the all-important interactions that happen outside the sessions. I’m certainly looking forward to in-presence conferences resuming. But there have been positive aspects: a lower carbon footprint for one thing, and very high attendance. Going online has given many people who would not normally be able to attend conferences the chance to feel connected to the global particle physics community in a way that was not previously possible.

I’m optimistic that by next year’s summer conferences, we may be able to return to meeting in person, but I’m sure we will not be going back to business as usual. There’s much to be learned from two years of COVID meetings and conferences. We’ve found that some shorter meeting formats work perfectly well online, while the major conferences could take on a hybrid form in the future, allowing the greater inclusivity we’ve enjoyed throughout the pandemic to be carried forward.

The online model in place today will most likely not be the future model. We need to think about the lessons we can learn from the pandemic and try to develop better models for the future, which ideally combine the best of both worlds. See you at Moriond!