Academic conferences are an important part of what makes science function, via the exchange of ideas and information, publicly and in person. The act of sitting and listening to both established and early career researchers discussing their most recent work, sometimes before it’s in print, is stimulating and exciting, and will never be replaced by digital technology. We’re social animals and conferences, as much as anything else, are social events.
But conferences are becoming more expensive, more frequent, and increasingly out of reach to researchers with limited budgets. They are also getting larger: how many times have you attended a big conference and been torn between which of two (or three or four) talks to go to in parallel sessions? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see all of them? Or to go back and hear again the talks that you most enjoyed? Likewise, wouldn’t it be great if your students or members of the public could also see what such conference presentations are like?
With this in mind, some time ago I dreamed up the idea of “virtual conferences” in as an experiment that aims to bring together into one place the most interesting recorded seminars, webinars, conference talks and public lectures that are freely available, and present them as a series of themed mini-conferences. All of the videos in these collections are available on sites such as YouTube* and my role is just to curate them and present them in one place for convenience, as a showcase for some of the best research in biodiversity, evolutionary biology, ecology and conservation, very broadly defined, including inter-disciplinary and policy-related presentations. And just as at a conference, there’s an opportunity to discuss the talks in the comments section on each post and to provide links to other talks on the same topic.
As well as being a service to the research community and the wider public, I hope that these conferences will be a useful teaching resource at advanced undergraduate and postgraduate level.
If anyone is interested in guest-curating a set of presentations in their own subject area on this blog, please do get in touch and I’ll be happy to talk about it.
So here’s the first virtual conference, on (naturally) pollinators, pollination and flowers:
Judith Bronstein (University of Arizona)
Peter Crane (University of Chicago)
Jeffery Pettis (USDA Bee Research Laboratory, Maryland)
Linda Newstrom (Landcare Research, New Zealand)
Mace Vaughan and Eric Mader (Xerces Society/USDA/University of Minnesota)
Carlos Vergara, Rémy Vandame, and Peter Kevan (Universidad de las Americas-Puebla/El Colegio de la Frontera Sur/CANPOLIN)
Claire Kremen (University of California, Berkeley)
*I’m assuming that, as all of these videos are in the public domain, none of the presenters or copyright owners objects to them being presented here. If you do, please get in touch and I’ll remove it.