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19th of March 2021
A better normal for conferences and collaboration
by Moss et al.
As someone wryly observed last year, "I was hoping the future of meetings would be no meetings at all". Though this might sound cynical, it is an insightful observation on the current execution of meetings and conferences, and how much value they offer their attendees. Nature Astronomy has just published our Comment conveying our experiences and lessons learned in organising "The Future of Meetings" (TFOM) symposium, where we advocate for a better normal rather than seeking to return to pre-COVID ways of interaction. In this article, we outline the benefits and challenges of the virtual format and argue that the future of scientific progress should not depend on a rush back to in-person interaction. Rather, it would be great to use this unique opportunity to reflect on all aspects of the way we work, collaborate and interact, and take action to define a future that is more accessible, inclusive and sustainable than the world we left behind at the start of 2020. We hope that this article will get people thinking about their own contexts, and what steps can be taken to ensure better interaction experiences (both virtual and in-person) for all involved. The image above shows the members of the TFOM Organising Committee gathering in the virtual TFOM space, hosted in the social virtual reality platform AltspaceVR.

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