COVID-19 put the community on a steep learning curve regarding new forms of online communication and collaboration. Before the pandemic, a typical high-energy physics (HEP) researcher was expected to cross the world several times a year for conferences, collaboration meetings and detector shifts, at the cost of thousands of dollars and a sizable carbon footprint. The online workshop Sustainable HEP – a new initiative this year – attracted more than 300 participants from 45 countries from 28 to 30 June to discuss how the lessons learned in the past two years might help HEP transition to a more sustainable future.

The first day of the workshop focused on how new forms of online interaction could change our professional travel culture. Shaun Hotchkiss (Auckland University) stressed in a session dedicated to best-practice examples that the purpose of online meetings should not simply be to emulate traditional 20th-century in-person conferences and collaboration meetings. Instead, the community needs to rethink how virtual scientific exchange could look in the 21st century. This might, for instance, include replacing traditional live presentations by pre-recorded talks that are pre-watched by the audience at their own convenience, leaving more precious conference time for in-depth discussions and meaningful interactions among the participants.

Social justice
The second day highlighted social-justice issues, and the potential for greater inclusivity using online formats. Alice Gathoni (British Institute in Eastern Africa) powerfully described the true meaning of online meetings to her: everyone wants to belong. It was only during the first online meetings during the pandemic that she truly felt a real sense of belonging to the global scientific community.

The third day was dedicated to existing sustainability initiatives and new technologies. Mike Seidel (PSI) presented studies on energy-recovery linacs and discussed energy-management concepts for future colliders, including daily “standby modes”. Other options include beam dynamics explicitly designed to maximise the ratio of luminosity to power, more efficient radio-frequency cavities, the use of permanent magnets, and high-temperature-superconductor cables and cavities. He concluded his talk by asking thought-provoking questions such as whether the HEP community should engage with its international networks to help establish sustainable energy-supply solutions.

The workshop ended by drafting a closing statement that calls upon the HEP community to align its activities with the Paris Climate Agreement and the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. The organisers invited members of the HEP community to add their names to the statement, which is open for signature until 20 August.

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This article was originally published in the CERN Courier.

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