Maintaining momentum for collaborative working groups in a post-pandemic world

Nature Ecology and Evolution
By: , and 



Scientific progress depends in part on our ability to synthesize heterogeneous data and ideas into new models and paradigms. In environmental sciences, such synthesis has been particularly effective when conducted by collaborative working groups: diverse groups of researchers and practitioners brought together for a concentrated period of collaboration on key questions. Such work is often done at synthesis centres: organizations that promote, fund, organize and host working groups and other collaborative research and training activities1. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, synthesis centres have had to rapidly adapt to supporting fully virtual working groups; the eight centres we direct supported 68 virtual working groups in the past year. Based on this experience, we conclude — contrary to a recent editorial on conferences published in this journal2 — that virtual gatherings, while providing a bridge during the pandemic, cannot replace immersive, in-person collaborations. In-person working group meetings involve productive and varied interactions for many hours over consecutive days. We have found that virtual sessions lose effectiveness after a few hours, as participants become fatigued from staring at a screen or juggling local demands. While virtual meetings can work for short, well-delineated tasks, they are less suited for unstructured and free-flowing discussions — and thus struggle to create the social cohesion and trust known to fuel creative breakthroughs during week-long in-person meetings3.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Maintaining momentum for collaborative working groups in a post-pandemic world
Series title Nature Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.1038/s41559-021-01521-0
Volume 5
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher Nature
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 2 p.
First page 1188
Last page 1189
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details