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Rescuing stranded scholarship

March 19, 2020

We are living through an extraordinary global event. Our lives are being impacted in unprecedented ways - by the closing of schools, postponements of social gatherings, and large swaths of the economy now working from home.  

In the academic world, it seems every day another conference is cancelled, leaving societies and institutions scrambling to find substitute ways to bring their communities together and keep scholarship afloat. While these conference cancellations might seem easy to overlook amid all other challenges, it also has never been more obvious how important scientific research is to our very existence.  

In their statement this week on the global COVID-19 pandemic, ICOLC firmly reminded us that “It is in the best interest of both publishers and consortia to seek creative solutions that allows critical access to publisher content for the research and public health communities.” One area where organizations can quickly help to disseminate valuable early stage research is through the digitization and sharing of would-be conference posters and presentations. In the absence of a physical meeting and without a virtual option, this critical content will lay dormant - to the detriment of authors, societies, and the scientific community at-large.

First SPIE, and now ACS with SciMeetings, have announced plans to quickly transition this important early-stage research onto a data-rich online platform. Other societies, both with cancelled meetings and without, will soon follow. These moves keep scholarship advancing forward during a time when in-person interaction is limited. Moreover, it ensures that content will remain searchable and accessible long after this crisis is over - a win-win for science as a whole. For researchers, especially those early in their career and dependent on research visibility and citations, online availability of their posters and presentations can have an enormous impact on their career progression.

There is no replacement for the experience a researcher gets by attending a conference in person. Likewise, it is difficult to overstate the importance of these events to the mission and financial health of many societies. Yet new technologies and reimagined researcher workflows allow us to uncover collaborative solutions and create new opportunities for engagement.

Together, we can ensure that even when conferences are cancelled, their scholarship will live on.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash