Humane research workshops

I’m thinking about a humane research workshop/conference model, compatible with mid 21st century climate and health emergencies. How about this:

  • ¬†Two page papers/extended abstracts solicited via public call, and peer reviewed by at least three people each from a diverse panel.
  • Chosen papers are presented as pre-recorded 15-20 minute talks.
  • These videos are streamed two at a time, in sessions 12 hours apart, and then rewatchable at any time.
  • The first of these session has intro and just one talk. The following sessions have one video from previous session and one new one. The reason being that people can watch all the videos by attending half the sessions, and see half the videos as the first premiere.
  • Participants attend one session per 24 hours, at the time that best fits their time zone / sleeping pattern. Basically the workshop operates in two ‘phases’, offset by 12 hours, in communication with each other.
  • Those at a timezone compatible with both phases are encouraged to join the one which would otherwise have fewer people.
  • There could be six talks over four days.
  • Discussion is summarised / minuted as text, and shared between the two phases. Part of the final session is for live responses/discussion between authors.
  • Authors submit a final, potentially extended version of their paper, to include responses to other talks, published open access.
  • Multiple ‘hubs’ are organised (ideally at least one per continent, inspired by ICMPC/ESCOM) where people can watch and discuss the videos together, perhaps building in-person events around the sessions that may or may not be streamed online.
  • Bursaries could then made available for a few early career researchers to travel between hubs for cultural exchange, with support for local touring over ~1 month to make the most of the workshop’s¬†emissions budget.



  1. Great idea to work on these format ideas! Comments:

    * Why 2 phases rather than the 3 used by Parncutt et al? Pro: it requires less organisational investment (two-thirds-ish) – good, since the Parncutt model is quite heavy on tech staff, not easy for many. Con: for some it will fall outside their usable hours (e.g. 7am versus 7pm).
    * “Discussion is summarised” – OK but what IS the discussion? We’re organising an online event with named Discussants, recruited to react discursively to the presentations, which I think is a good thing. For example, if each phase has a session with 3 discussants in, that session should be video recorded (whether online or f2f) and made available to the other phases.
    * 6 talks over 4 days doesn’t sound like much. It’s “humane” with respect to workload but might not attract many people? I would increase it. I suspect you chose 6 over 4 days because of your intention to have each video session composed of 1 “premiere” and 1 “rerun”. I suggest that a three-phase system or anything else that means most things aren’t premieres, would still be fine.

  2. Hi Dan, thanks for your thoughts!

    Hmm good questions. During a pandemic, where everyone watches at home, two talks feels like quite a lot alongside other work and family video calls. On the other hand for a hub-based model which people travel to, it’s hardly any. These are very different models really and to be honest I think my post is confusing the two.

    I’m thinking about a fairly short workshop though, and more than two phases might be spreading the audience too thinly. All six talks could be done in a single afternoon, but if no one has to travel, perhaps it’s better to spread them over a week.

    Discussion – I tried something similar for this event, although I named them ‘respondents’. It kind of worked, but the event was on the topic of distributed events and movements, took place at the end of February 2020, and then the pandemic arrived..

    I think Parncutt et al have too much respect for timezones really. If people have been willing to sit on a plane for 6 hours to attend a weekend conference on a different timezone, surely they can stay up until 2am to catch a paper. I asked Richard about this and he didn’t think that attendees would see it this way. But then computer music conferences have been known to programme events from 9am until 2am or later (which can then overrun by a couple of hours), I think we should be able to cope with even a single timezone!

    From an organiser’s perspective though, an ideal situation might be deciding on timezones/phases fairly late in the planning process, once the timezones and timing preferences of the selected presenters are known.

    I put some thoughts on a distributed ICLC here pre-pandemic. They weren’t taken up unfortunately but I think there’d be more interest now.

  3. I get your point about people timeshifting for conferences, but I perhaps concur with Parncutt that you’re over-estimating people’s willingness to bend their personal schedules. When you travel internationally you shift the sunlight hours, the mealtimes, etc, and you temporarily “hide” from many everyday clock obligations – people will not be doing that.

    ANYWAY —
    Here’s an idea for a pattern involving discussants. For any given talk, there are three segments, each separated by roughly twelve hours:

    (a) Presenter gives a talk to a live local audience in timezone 1, followed by Q&A. It’s video recorded.

    (b) Later, in timezone 2 they watch the recorded talk as an in-person screening (optionally including the Q&A, though I’d skip it since usually a poor viewing experience). Local discussants have a panel discussion in front of the live local audience. It’s video recorded.

    (c) Later, in timezone 1 they watch the panel discussion (e.g. the next morning). There’s time for local reaction-to-the-reaction before the next talk.

    If you have two hubs in contrasting timezones, you can do a kind of alternating-gallop pattern to weave these together. For example in the following, there’s talk 1 led by timezone 1, talk 2 led by timezone 2, talk 3 led by timezone 1, and so forth. Each row in the following is a “session” separated by approx 12 hours:






    It could work with more than 2 hubs too, but the inspiration I’ve taken from your suggestion is to have 2 hubs and no live linkups: low barrier to organising. Live streaming could be added as a bonus of course, but in this model you may as well simply put those videos online and open up a text channel for remote chat.

  4. Sounds good!

    I still like the idea of attending a conference at 4am. There could be events leading up to it timed to help the transition, based on the latest research on wake cycles. If it was a ‘hub’ then you’d probably be away from home, spending time with other people going through the same thing. If it was in a city like Berlin, people don’t sleep on weekends there anyway. I think it could work.

    I suppose that two hubs isn’t very many, compared to the number of continents.. But for a small event just having two hubs would be OK as a cultural exchange between two countries or labs. Or there could be more than two hubs, but each hub chooses which of the two phases they’re in.

    The 12 hour offset allows time for making/editing/translating subtitles too.

    This reminds me of the placard headphone festival, where we made a website where people could register transmitting rooms and receiving rooms. These were multi-day events where people slept while listening to headphones though so timezones aren’t an issue.. Oh, it’s still going!

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