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Press release EGU2020: Sharing Geoscience Online

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European Geosciences Union

EGU2020: Sharing Geoscience Online

15 April 2020

In place of its annual General Assembly in Vienna, the European Geosciences Union (EGU) will instead host EGU2020: Sharing Geoscience Online (#shareEGU20). This week-long series of virtual interactions, to be held during the first week of May, will offer geoscientists opportunities to share their research and stimulate scientific discourse during a period of unprecedented social isolation.

Sharing Geoscience Online is a pilot project with the potential to involve more than ten thousand scientists who specialise in Earth, planetary and space science research, along with policymakers, educators, journalists and anyone else interested in participating. “Although it was a sad moment when we had to cancel the meeting in Vienna,” says Susanne Buiter, EGU’s Programme Committee Chair, “people really seem to be looking forward to our large virtual experiment!”

Promoting scientific discourse: commenting and live text chats
Unlike the General Assembly, which features several types of presentations, the virtual event, which will include more than 17,000 abstracts, will have just one kind. “All presentations will be equal,” says Buiter, who emphasises that how each person participates is up to them. “Each author has the option of uploading presentation materials to expand on their abstract that has already been published.”

The presentation materials can be anything the scientist wishes to share, says Buiter, such as a map, a few slides, a figure or an animation. Authors can upload their materials until the end of May, and as part of this process opt in to receive comments from other EGU members who are logged in. The software even allows authors to revise their materials, according to Buiter.

In addition, during the week of 4–8 May EGU will offer live text-chat sessions during which the authors of thematically grouped abstracts and other interested people can actively “discuss” the research. The Union will also live stream speakers in ten keynote symposia and debates and offer a few traditional side events, including the Imaggeo photo competition, several short courses, and research-based artwork from EGU’s artists in (virtual) residence.

Conference of the future?
There has already been speculation that the COVID-19 outbreak could ultimately result in more scientific meetings being offered online to minimise the carbon footprint of scientific research. During the past few years EGU has made significant strides in reducing the environmental impacts of the General Assembly and in October announced that it would offset the carbon dioxide emissions of every participant’s travel to Vienna — a first for any major geoscience event.

“We had many new initiatives lined up to increase accessibility and inclusiveness and reduce the environmental impact of the conference,” says Buiter. Now, she says, the COVID-19 outbreak is offering the community an opportunity to test virtual methods of exchanging ideas and promoting equal participation that could be expanded on in the future. “I feel that this is a moment of truth for our members,” says Buiter. “It’s an exciting opportunity to demonstrate if our members are interested in new models of interacting.”

Buiter believes there will always be a demand for in-person conferences that offer opportunities for the community to meet, network and begin new collaborations. But she also anticipates that Sharing Geoscience Online could shift the meeting landscape. “As a small point of light in these dark times, I hope our experiences will help us figure out what works well online,” she says. “This could inform longer-term solutions to our need to make scientific discourse greener and even more accessible.”

More information

The European Geosciences Union (EGU) is the leading organisation for Earth, planetary and space science research in Europe. With our partner organisations worldwide, we foster fundamental geoscience research, alongside applied research that addresses key societal and environmental challenges. Our vision is to realise a sustainable and just future for humanity and for the planet. We publish a number of diverse scientific journals, which use an innovative open access format, and organise topical meetings, and education and outreach activities. Follow the EGU on Twitter and Facebook.


Terri Cook
Head of Media, Communications and Outreach
European Geosciences Union
Munich, Germany
X @EuroGeosciences


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