Workshops Without Walls: broadening access to science around the world

PLoS Biol. 2011 Aug;9(8):e1001118. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001118. Epub 2011 Aug 2.


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Astrobiology Institute (NAI) conducted two "Workshops Without Walls" during 2010 that enabled global scientific exchange--with no travel required. The second of these was on the topic "Molecular Paleontology and Resurrection: Rewinding the Tape of Life." Scientists from diverse disciplines and locations around the world were joined through an integrated suite of collaborative technologies to exchange information on the latest developments in this area of origin of life research. Through social media outlets and popular science blogs, participation in the workshop was broadened to include educators, science writers, and members of the general public. In total, over 560 people from 31 US states and 30 other nations were registered. Among the scientific disciplines represented were geochemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology and evolution, and microbial ecology. We present this workshop as a case study in how interdisciplinary collaborative research may be fostered, with substantial public engagement, without sustaining the deleterious environmental and economic impacts of travel.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Access to Information
  • Education, Distance* / economics
  • Exobiology / education
  • International Cooperation
  • Science / education*
  • Social Media
  • United States
  • United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • Videoconferencing