Pieter L. Kubben
  1. Department of Neurosurgery, Maastricht University Medical Center, The Netherlands

Correspondence Address:
Pieter L. Kubben
Department of Neurosurgery, Maastricht University Medical Center, The Netherlands


Copyright: © 2012 Kubben PL. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

How to cite this article: Kubben PL. Online conferencing: Less CO2, more effective?. Surg Neurol Int 13-Oct-2012;3:115

How to cite this URL: Kubben PL. Online conferencing: Less CO2, more effective?. Surg Neurol Int 13-Oct-2012;3:115. Available from:

Date of Submission

Date of Acceptance

Date of Web Publication

As you know, Surgical Neurology International (SNI) is an open-access journal, which means you can access all of its contents for free online. We are currently offering articles, blog items (called “posts”), videos, and apps, as our main features. Networking is supported not only by interactivity on the blog, but also by our social networks: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

One thing that is not yet present, but that we have been discussing internally, is online conferencing. There are several software packages that allow to show live videos, to chat among users, to post presentations online (in PDF or other formats), and some of them also allow access from mobile devices. Hence, technically this is perfectly possible. The question is: do you want it?


The advantages of online conferencing are multiple. It removes the need for long and expensive travels that take up a lot of time, and remove you from your family and practice. By avoiding cost for travel and stay, conferences (and therefore, knowledge) can be made accessible for a larger audience, especially in developing countries. By avoiding travel itself, assuming you do not travel by bike or sail boat, CO2 emission can be reduced too. Online conferencing also allows for a more flexible schedule: you may not be able to attend a conference abroad for that one surgery or appointment that cannot be postponed. In that case you may still be able to attend other lectures or sessions if you can follow them from your office or your home. It is perfectly possible to include checks whether you actually watched a video, which would allow for CME points as you would get during an on-site conference.


Let us be honest: it is pleasant to go to a nice place and see a new part of the world, and it is even more pleasant that it is called “work”. Still, you could do that during a holiday too. What you cannot do during your holiday, is meet and communicate with colleagues all over the world, face to face. This form of “informal networking” is important, and many colleagues have rather cynically reported that the best parts of a conference were the breaks, in which individual discussions offered new insights and even new collaborations.

Although all major online conferencing software allows the user to chat, it is different than the previously mentioned face to face meetings. The question is whether the outcome is comparable. Another practical but important question is: do you free up time to sit in front of a screen when there is a busy clinic around you? Do you silence your pager? Or do you get disturbed five times in a 15 minute lecture? If you are out of office, in a lecture hall, this is much less of a problem.


Is online conferencing the future? I do not know. As a matter of fact, we are offering all the features of online conferencing, but in an asynchronous way. Videos are available from our website, and can be commented and discussed. The same applies for blog items and articles. “Chat-like” activities are possible using our social networks. Obviously these are not “live”, but is that bad? The main advantage of synchronous communication is an immediate response. The main advantage of asynchronous communication is optimal flexibility. So, what works best: synchronous communication, or maximum flexibility?


What is your opinion on online conferencing? Would you be interested to participate in an online SNI conference, or not? Should we absolutely go for it, or should we forget it? Or should we include CME features in the videos as we are currently offering? Should we stimulate users to create screencasts (videos from powerpoints, including spoken text)? Does synchronous online communication offer added value to our existing site features? And would it make a difference for your participation if mobile platforms are supported to access an online conference?

I am happy to receive your comments by a conventional asynchronous method of online communication, called e-mail. You can reach me at:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *