Updates for Global Coral Reef Week 2020

Welcome to Global Coral Reef Week! Organized by coral reef scientists Chelsie Counsell, Franziska Elmer, & Judith Lang, Global Coral Reef Week was designed to pilot a new approach to research conferences. Our goals are to dramatically reduce conference carbon footprints by eliminating air travel and to increase conference accessibility to participants, while retaining opportunities to network face-to-face with regional colleagues and connect to content and colleagues around the world. Our vision of digitally connected, regional, in-person meetings includes a blend of personal interactions with live-streamed plenary talks, and a digital repository of content for easy access across time zones.

Given that for much of the world, face-to-face meetings and group gatherings are currently restricted, we are focusing our efforts on strengthening the virtual conference aspects of this vision for Global Coral Reef Week 2020. We are excited to offer an opportunity for coral reef scientists to share their research with others, engage in question/answers with colleagues, and give the virtual conference experience a try in July 2020. If possible, we still encourage regional groups to host plenary screenings or networking events during the week of July 6th to further enhance their Global Coral Reef Week experience.

Globally connected virtual video conference

From July 1st until July 14th, our virtual video conference will be live! Watch more than 85 cutting-edge coral reef research talks and workshops for free. You can watch the talks that interest you at the time that works for your schedule, presenters are  asked to actively respond to questions from conference participants during the first two weeks of July. Presenters are encouraged to leave their talks on our YouTube platform after those two weeks, creating an open-access archive of cutting-edge coral reef research talks to anyone anywhere with Internet access.

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Globally streamed plenary talks

Meeting participants will be interlinked through screenings of our 14 plenary talks which include virtual live Q&A. Do you want to gather with your colleagues to watch these talks and participate in the live Q&A? You are welcome to do so, and you can add in other in-person content to your meetings if desired. Please adhere to your local COVID-19 regulations. Email us at globalcoralreefweek@posteo.de if you have questions to start planning your local event. 

Why redesign research conferences?

The climate crisis is real, and the effects of it are already being faced around the globe through record setting high temperatures, dramatic declines in ice sheets, sea level rise, intensified weather patterns, warm ocean temperatures, etc. Fortunately, we know the solutions to this problem. To slow down the climate crisis and to minimize the damage done to society and ecosystems, we need to stop burning fossil fuels. We also need to sequester CO2 from the atmosphere - in large part by protecting existing forests and planting trees.

This is not a technological or scientific problem, the climate crisis is a problem of will power at the individual and country level. We need to restructure our societies. We need to address these challenges with our personal actions, encourage our social networks to consider changing their actions, and vote for politicians that are willing to implement serious climate crisis policies. We need rapid, unprecedented change.

We need everyone to do everything that they can to reduce their CO2 emissions and their community’s reliance on burning fossil fuels. As part of this, we need to welcome innovation and creativity as we rethink paradigms. Research conferences provide opportunities to share science, to network, and to synthesis ideas resulting in innovative solutions. Conference attendance is vital for the growth of scientific fields and for every scientist’s career. It is where we meet new collaborators, obtain new positions/jobs, present our research to a large audience, and feel inspired by plenary talks. But the current approach to research conferences in which thousands of scientists fly internationally sometimes to multiple conferences, has a very large energy footprint. To rethink the paradigm, we need to step back and ask:  What are the goals of research conferences? How can we achieve these goals without burning excessive amounts of fossil fuels? 

As part of this rethinking process, a team of coral reef scientists are working to shift the paradigm of needing to fly long distances to network and share science with others. We are working to empower scientists to fly less while still being an active part of the research community. While we began the design of Global Coral Reef Week as a way to make the benefits of conference attendance possible without the high CO2 emissions of flying, we quickly recognized a multitude of other benefits to virtually connected, local in-person meetings across the globe. Local meetings are much more affordable and accessible, enabling hundreds of participants with limited funding (e.g., early career and developing nations scientists) to present their research and to interact with scientists, resource managers, politicians, media, and community members. Local meetings can also provide opportunities for engagement with local teachers, school systems, politicians, and the media, greatly strengthening the spread of science. In addition to decreasing CO2 emissions, our approach to a research conference decreases the "wear" of jet lag and exposure to communicable diseases people face when they fly.

We are grateful for the model for Nearly Carbon-Neutral Conferences laid out by Ken Hiltner of UCSB. We are following this framework for recording, broadcasting, and enabling ongoing digital conversations about presentations. However, we are working to integrate local face-to-face interactions and workshops ideally merging the decreased emissions and increased social reach benefits of Nearly Carbon-Neutral Conferences with face-to-face conversations.


Through the pursuit of decreased carbon emissions, virtually connected, local in-person meetings can also increase social equity and global scientific literacy. Rethinking the paradigm, shifting societal norms, and being open-minded to innovative approaches, offers us an incredible opportunity to be creative and to expand environmental solutions into pursuits of social justice. 

Be part of the change, join us for Global Coral Reef Week 2020...

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