The Need for Sustainability, Equity, and International Exchange: Perspectives of Early Career Environmental Psychologists on the Future of Conferences.

Köhler, Jana K, Kreil, Agnes S, Wenger, Ariane, Darmandieu, Aurore, Graves, Catherine, Haugestad, Christian A P, Holzen, Veronique, Keller, Ellis, Lloyd, Sam et al (2022) The Need for Sustainability, Equity, and International Exchange: Perspectives of Early Career Environmental Psychologists on the Future of Conferences. Frontiers in psychology, 13 . p. 906108.

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At the 2019 and 2021 International Conference on Environmental Psychology, discussions were held on the future of conferences in light of the enormous greenhouse gas emissions and inequities associated with conference travel. In this manuscript, we provide an early career researcher (ECR) perspective on this discussion. We argue that travel-intensive conference practices damage both the environment and our credibility as a discipline, conflict with the intrinsic values and motivations of our discipline, and are inequitable. As such, they must change. This change can be achieved by moving toward virtual and hybrid conferences, which can reduce researchers' carbon footprints and promote equity, if employed carefully and with informal exchange as a priority. By acting collectively and with the support of institutional change, we can adapt conference travel norms in our field. To investigate whether our arguments correspond to views in the wider community of ECRs within environmental psychology, we conducted a community case study. By leveraging our professional networks and directly contacting researchers in countries underrepresented in those networks, we recruited 117 ECRs in 32 countries for an online survey in February 2022. The surveyed ECRs supported a change in conference travel practices, including flying less, and perceived the number of researchers wanting to reduce their travel emissions to be growing. Thirteen percent of respondents had even considered leaving academia due to travel requirements. Concerning alternative conference formats, a mixed picture emerged. Overall, participants had slightly negative evaluations of virtual conferences, but expected them to improve within the next 5 years. However, ECRs with health issues, facing visa challenges, on low funding, living in remote areas, with caretaking obligations or facing travel restrictions due to COVID-19 expected a switch toward virtual or hybrid conferences to positively affect their groups. Participants were divided about their ability to build professional relationships in virtual settings, but believed that maintaining relationships virtually is possible. We conclude by arguing that the concerns of ECRs in environmental psychology about current and alternative conference practices must be taken seriously. We call on our community to work on collective solutions and less travel-intensive conference designs using participatory methods. [Abstract copyright: Copyright © 2022 Köhler, Kreil, Wenger, Darmandieu, Graves, Haugestad, Holzen, Keller, Lloyd, Marczak, Međugorac and Rosa.]

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