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Opening Doors: Why ESIP Gathers Virtually

Opening Doors: Why ESIP Gathers Virtually

Virtual is an important part of meeting culture now. In her guest blog, Susan Shingledecker, Executive Director of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP), explores why we are alternating in-person and virtual meetings.

AI-generated image via Canva: “Earth data scientists present ideas under the stars to open doors.”

Break out your slippers and your comfy pants. 

Who is ready for the 2023 January ESIP Meeting (Jan 23-27)?

A virtual meeting.  That is so 2021, you say. I disagree and let me tell you why. 

I am the kind of person who likes to have my cake and eat it too. As much as I thrive on the energy and interactions at an in-person meeting, there are so many benefits that we see with virtual meetings. For that reason ESIP is excited to offer a little of both: An interactive and engaging virtual meeting later this month in January and an incredible hybrid meeting in July in Burlington, VT. We hope you will join us for both! 

I have returned to traveling more,  allowing  me to reflect on and celebrate some of the real advantages of a virtual meeting format  when coupled with in-person gatherings.

Virtual meetings increase reach.

 In ESIP, we have seen some of our largest attendance figures with the four virtual-only meetings held between summer 2020 and winter 2022.

We can reduce our carbon footprint. 

 As an organization invested in climate work, we know that virtual meetings have a much smaller carbon footprint without the air travel that comes with in-person meetings. Some of our attendees reflected on alternative travel and choosing to attend virtually for our 2022 July ESIP Meeting.

Lower registration fees remove barriers.

 We know that registration fees are a barrier to some groups and limit attendance. While we do all we can to keep these costs low, the reality is that running meetings costs money and in-person or hybrid meetings demand more resources for large audio-visual, food and beverage costs. For all our meetings, we offer a registration waiver, early registration rates and we have funded an Expanding Access to ESIP Scholarship since 2020.

Virtual meetings require no travel.

Have you seen travel fares lately? We have heard that staying within per diem is getting increasingly challenging. For those working in institutions with tight travel budgets, they can send more people. This can reduce the chance of only the senior and higher ranking staff getting to attend, shaking up power imbalances.  

Remote means more physical accessibility.

 Whether you have achy knees or a bad back, in-person meeting can take a toll on many. A virtual meeting allows you to be present in the comfort of your own office. In our ESIP Meetings, we are also intentional about providing interactive sessions and longer breaks to minimize Zoom fatigue.

January is a tough time to travel. 

In the northern hemisphere, January and February are notorious for snow (and head colds). For anyone that experienced Chicago’s weather during the AGU Fall Meeting or was stuck at airports in recent weeks, plane travel looks less glamorous.

It’s harder to spread germs through a screen. 

We know the unfortunate reality that in-person meetings increase the risk of getting sick. COVID-19, Flu, RSV or just a doozy of a common cold like I had in December can really set you back. And those with compromised immune systems can participate virtually with less worry. 

Hybrid meetings do not level the playing field.

It’s wonderful to have options. But in a hybrid meeting, some attendees are online and some are in the room, which can create an uneven playing field for engaging. 

Remote helps some focus on family. 

While in-person meetings encourage immersion, those with family care responsibilities sometimes have to make hard choices when it comes to work travel. For new parents, nursing mothers or people caring for school-aged kids or elderly parents, a virtual meeting lessens some pressures between work and family.

ESIP Logo and words "25 years of collaboration"

ESIP supports interactive sessions by offering ongoing facilitation training. Here is a compilation of our session design videos.

Earth science data and computing is inherently interdisciplinary. ESIP Meetings help bridge community efforts to improve data-driven solutions for environmental challenges. 

Virtual is not perfect.

Don’t get me wrong, there are downsides to virtual meetings. Here are some common criticisms and a few suggestions on how to get the most out of our virtual ESIP Meetings.

It’s hard to focus during virtual meetings.

Many will say that when attending  virtual meetings, they cannot really take the time off from work to be fully present. 

I challenge you to be fully present with us

Set your out of office reply. Tell colleagues “Thanks for your message, I am attending the ESIP meeting this week and my replies will be delayed” and help yourself stay focused. Mute Slack, email and other communications. Use focus mode tools. 

Tell your co-workers that you are at ESIP, or better yet share with them the sessions you are most excited about and invite them to join you

Networking is harder in a virtual space. 

Show up for our Coffee Breaks and the Research Showcase,  which are great places to meet new people. 

Take a risk and drag your circle in Wonder over to someone you don’t know. Take a look at the other attendees in Sched (and update your own profile). Let us know if we can help you with your networking needs. The ESIP staff is always happy to arrange  introductions via email, Slack or other platforms. 

There is no free food. 

When you hit the grocery store, stock up on snacks!

Let’s open doors in ESIP’s virtual meeting. 

Think about it. Who has opened doors for you and who have you opened doors for?

 When entering a new space, you transition from one place to another. HOW we do that matters. We have all faced locked doors, closed doors – and approached a door with full arms unable to get the latch. 

How does it feel when you see a door close in front of you? Conversely, how does it feel when someone holds a door open for you? Did they tip it open as they went through or did they hold it open and engage you as you walked in? 

At our virtual 2023 January ESIP Meeting,  we will focus on how we can embark on the Year of Open Science, opening doors for each other and all to live into the possibilities of open science. I hope you will join us!

Join Us for the ESIP Meeting!

ESIP Meetings are collaborative, community-driven events that bring together the Earth science data community. They happen each January and July. When you find your people, meeting with them hardly feels like a meeting.

Get the latest meeting news through our ESIP Update: sign up at to receive weekly emails and join the ESIP Slack community.

Susan Shingledecker wrote this blog post and part of her content first appeared on LinkedIn. Allison Mills edited the piece.

ESIP stands for Earth Science Information Partners and is a community of partner organizations and volunteers. We work together to meet environmental data challenges and look for opportunities to expand, improve, and innovate across Earth science disciplines.

Learn more and sign up for the weekly ESIP Update for #EarthScienceData events, funding, webinars and ESIP announcements.