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Can academic conferences become more global, accessible, equitable, and culturally diverse?

Imagine a doctoral student in India in the area of computer science. She is already an internationally recognized expert in computational theory, but cannot attend the leading global conference in that area (which happens to be coming up in Brazil), because travel, registration and accommodation are far too expensive relative to the sources available to her.

This financial limitation applies to all three main components of the cost of attending a conference: travel, registration and accommodation. For this Indian colleague, a multiple-hub, semi-virtual format, similar to ICMPC15/ESCOM10, would drastically reduce all three costs. An Indian hub might be centrally located relative to the Indian rail network (at Barkatullah University, Bhopal, for example). For Indian participants, both registration and accommodation would be far cheaper than for a conference in Europe or North America. Travel would also be much cheaper.

At that multi-location conference in computational theory, people from all over the world would get to know each other's work. Those people would include our Indian doctoral student at the same level as everyone else. The new format would allow the conference and subsequently the entire global community in that area to grow, allowing an ever-increasing number of global participants to present their work. That would in turn allow the rejection rate to be increased, increasing academic quality.

This scenario could be applied equally to music cognition or any other academic discipline. It could also be applied to any country, larger (China, Russia, Brazil) or smaller (South Africa, Thailand, Peru). If we take advantage of today's communication technologies, we can now overcome the implicit racism that for decades has indirectly prevented colleagues from financially disadvantaged countries from participating in academic conferences. This is true independent of questions about emissions and climate change.

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