'Meeting with others face-to-face has real value and there are times when there is no substitute. Still, modern technology is increasingly a suitable substitute for many common exchanges of ideas. Videoconferencing and other virtual tools for collaboration can make the Earth greener, as Gerhards noted, but they can also make the academy fairer and more representative of the Earth’s inhabitants by means as simple as offering an option for virtual participation alongside the choice for physical attendance. If we want to practice what we preach, whether about the environment or about inclusion, it’s time to start preaching and practicing from the comfort and convenience of our desks.'
Virtual communities of practice such as HIFA have an increasingly important role in complementing (and in some cases removing the need for) face-to-face conferences. They are much more environmentally friendly, much more inclusive, much more affordable (for both organisers and participants), and (arguably - this needs to be tested) much more efficient in terms of building shared understanding and exchanging experience and expertise.
Best wishes, Neil
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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG firstname.lastname@example.org