Nature Sustainability | December 9, 2021
Conferences disseminate research, grow professional networks and train employees. Unfortunately, they also contribute to climate change and present barriers to achieving a socially sustainable work environment. Here, we analyse the recent impact of transforming in-person conferences into virtual conferences on improving diversity, equity and inclusion in science and engineering conferences. Factors including cost, gender, career stage and geographic location were evaluated. Virtual conferences demonstrated a clearly discernable and, in some cases, orders of magnitude improvement across nearly all metrics. On the basis of participant survey results, this improvement may be attributed to a combination of reduced financial and personal-life burdens. However, despite this clear impact, further development of virtual networking features and poster sessions is necessary to achieve widespread adoption and acceptance of this new format.