Word-Wrangler: Lilly Litchfield

Lilly has a theoretical degree in high-school English.


Did you know that you can just attend academic conferences? Like, no one is stopping you. You can just do it. The old gatekeepers – those pesky laws of time, space, and money – have all disappeared into the abyss. A certain global crisis has unmoored us from our bounds, releasing us into the vast stretches of extradimensional waters known as the internet. We have now, at our fingertips, the ability to interact with the biggest-brained people on the planet. Like, huge brains. Thick with two c’s. 


Historically, academic conferences would take place in secluded function rooms. Out of sight from the public, with exorbitant entry fees, and snooty dress codes. Participants would meet in person. There would be a lot of hand-touching and poor ventilation. 


They were boned. They had to adapt or die – survival of the fittest, you might say. Many of them managed it, though. They went online. Figured out zoom. And with only a few hiccups managed to accidentally make one of the most significant moves for science communication in the last decade. A major goal of science communication is to increase access to science. Allowing more people into the hidden world of science-in-the-making. Academic conferences have become so dirt cheap and easily accessible that anyone interested can now take part in shaping scientific discoveries. You can access the raw flow of scientific information from the source. Before it’s sanitised. Before the rough edges are filed off. Where the real science gets done.


This ongoing global crisis dragged conferences kicking and screaming into the present day. Despite difficulties, many delectable opportunities have opened up for the intrepid stay-at-home conference-goer. What once were dark gatherings of secluded scientists chittering in isolated huddles around sinister water-coolers, they have now broken open to the blinding torrential flow of high-speed internet. This cataclysmic sundering of well-understood cliques and concave huddles yields many secrets for the furtive explorers who brave the turbulent waters of newly online conferences. 


Students can now glimpse into the professional world that awaits them, down that academic path. We can forge connections and build networks that may prove invaluable further into our careers. What was once only accessible if the stars aligned is now open anywhere in the world for usually under twenty-five bucks. It might take some planning to log into a conference that’s in American or British time zones. However, knowing the average student’s sleep schedule, I think we’ll be fine.


On a grander scale, this tasty opportunity doesn’t only extend to curious and hopeful students. Health researchers and patient advocates are being brought together across the world. Patients gain access to the forefront of research which directly impacts their lives. Researchers get indispensable context to their work, who they are saving, and the real impact of their forays into the unknown. All without having to engage in expensive, pollutive travel. From the comfort of their homes! This all works to bridge the gap of dehumanisation that occurs with distance and abstraction. It’s easy to make compromises with numbers, but it’s much harder to risk actual people you know and interact with. Online conferences are facilitating a world where abstracted numbers on researchers’ pages have faces, names, and identities. And patients get to see who holds their life in their hands.


The tickets are pretty cheap, too.


By Pelican Magazine

Pelican is the second-oldest student publication in Australia and the only independent paper at UWA. If you like having opinions, writing, drawing, and/or free tickets to local events, then Pelican is the place for you! We print six themed issues a year, and run a stream of online content.

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