15th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition and
10th triennial conference of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music
ICMPC15/ESCOM10 was an innovative, multi-location, semi-virtual academic conference that took place in July 2018. There were four conference locations (hubs) on four different continents. During parallel sessions, participants at each hub chose between parallel live and virtual presentations. Virtual presentations were either real-time or delayed depending on time differences. All presentations were recorded and made available to all participants later.
We believe this kind of conference has great potential for three reasons:
- Carbon emissions of academic conferences must be urgently reduced. We showed how to do that while retaining a lot of face-to-face communication.
- Conferences need to be more inclusive, allowing people with limited finances and limited mobility to participate. That includes students, colleagues from low-GDP countries, colleagues with caring commitments, and colleagues with disabilities. Participation should be based only on academic quality.
- Videos are increasingly regarded as important electronic documentation of conferences. They allow researchers to reach new academic and non-academic audiences. The video documentation of every presentation was a useful spinoff of the new approach.
We welcome enquiries from academic colleagues in any country or any discipline who are thinking of organizing something similar. Please do not hesitate to contact us!
Further details on the multi-hub semi-virtual format
For further details on HOW we did it (the technology and logistics), see this paper:
Parncutt, R., Meyer-Kahlen, N., & Sattmann, S. (2019). Live-streaming at international academic conferences: Technical and organizational options for single- and multiple-location formats. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, 7, 51. full text
For further details on WHY we did it (the background in climate science, interculturality and ethics) see this paper:
Parncutt, R., & Seither-Preisler, A. (2019). Live streaming at international academic conferences: Ethical considerations. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, 7, 55. full text
For information on how this kind of conference format may be further improved in the future:
Parncutt, R., Lindborg, P., Meyer-Kahlen, N., & Timmers, R. (2021). The multi-hub academic conference: Global, inclusive, culturally diverse, creative, sustainable. Frontiers in Research Metrics and Analytics, 53. full text
The International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (ICMPC) takes place every two years, and the 15th event in the series was held 23-28 July 2018. Continuing a traditional 6-year cycle, the conference was combined with the 10th triennial conference of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (ESCOM).
ICMPC15-ESCOM10 was distributed across hubs on different continents, communicating via an internet cloud. We struck a new balance between face-to-face and virtual communication and between activities on different continents to create a truly global conference.
Every hub presented a regular local keynote and regular parallel sessions. In addition, there were virtual parallel sessions from the other hubs, mostly in real time (as unlisted, password-protected YouTube streams) followed by international discussions (probably using Zoom). In this way, each hub presented most or all of the global program.
The daily program was divided into a morning and an evening session to maximize real-time international communication. For the first time,
- every talk was both live and virtual, that is, presented to a live local audience and viewed elsewhere, either in real time or with a time delay;
- all discussions included virtual participants at one or more remote locations;
- all presentations and discussions were documented as videos plus comment feeds;
- a limited number of colleagues who are unable to travel due to disability, caring commitments, visa/travel problems or severe financial limitations had the opportunity to present a prerecorded, reviewed video;
- abstract reviews were considered when selecting keynotes, of which there was one at each hub, streamed to one or two other hubs in real time with no competition from other events.
A semi-virtual multiple-location conference makes it easier for colleagues from less financially privileged countries to participate actively and equally by locating hubs in their countries or regions, reducing their registration, travel and accommodation costs. ICMPC15-ESCOM10 offered this advantage to Argentinians and South Americans. We hope that future ICMPCs and ESCOM conferences will become more egalitarian and multicultural by following and adapting our model, welcoming colleagues from new countries and regions--with interesting implications for academic content.
Participants at ICMPC15-ESCOM10 were free to attend any hub, regardless of location. We recommended travelling to the closest hub, which reduced both travel costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Flying across the world to a conference is comparable with driving a car in a regular way for a year.
The hubs were:
- Montréal, Québec: Department of Music, Concordia University (with about 150 participants)
- Sydney, Australia: School of the Arts and Media, University of New South Wales (50 participants)
- La Plata, Argentina: Faculty of Fine Arts, National University of La Plata (100 participants)
- Graz, Austria: Centre for Systematic Musicology, University of Graz (300 participants)
Graz carried out the review procedure and wrote the program in collaboration with other hub organizers. Registration fees were paid directly to the hubs. The technology was tested in April 2017 in a small international pilot event (Global Arts and Psychology Seminar GAPS2017). The conference language was English as lingua franca (ELF). We support flyingless.
The original Call for Papers is here. Please note that some organisational details may have changed since the call was released.
A video documentary about the semi-virtual conference format is here. A webinar that compares different low-carbon conference formats is here (explained here). A talk explaining the new semi-virtual format is here. An announcement for a talk at Uni Graz is here.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Spanish boasted that the sun never set on the global Spanish empire. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the British could make a similar claim. In the last week of July 2018, the sun never set on the ICMPC and the triennial ESCOM conference. Welcome to ICMPC15/ESCOM10!
The four organizing committees would like to take this opportunity to thank our amazing teams of technicians and student assistants (hospitality teams) at all four hubs for ensuring the success of this innovative semi-virtual multi-location academic research conference. So many people were so supportive and did such great work that we don't know where to start, but many are listed on the committees page.
In round figures,
- the number of registered participants and the number of countries that they represented,increased by 50% relative to previous comparable conferences,
- the new format was approved of by 60% of 200 colleagues who contributed to an anonymous written evaluation, and
- greenhouse gas emissions per head were reduced by 70% relative to a comparable traditional conference with all active participants flying to Graz.
Every talk (there were hundreds of them and often several at once in different locations) was live streamed and viewed by an audience at another hub (unless the speaker didn’t want that, or no one turned up). Although the streaming, projecting and sound mixing arrangements differed slightly at each hub, not one talk had to be repeated for technical reasons.
The multi-hub approach meant that many colleagues could participate although they could not have afforded the trip to Graz plus our hotel rates and registration fee. This applied to most colleagues in La Plata, many in Sydney, and some in Montreal. In the future we hope to welcome colleagues from other new regions, including parts of Asia and Africa, as equal research partners. That in turn will promote education, research and development in those regions, as well as the cultural diversity of our research community.
These benefits of the semi-virtual conference format are available to any conference in any academic discipline as well as non-academic conferences. Please talk to your colleagues in other disciplines about it. We will freely share our experience and technical guidelines.