COVID-19 and the academy: It is time for going digital
In many countries, the lock-down due to the COVID-19 pandemic triggered discussions on the use of digital interaction formats for academic exchange. The pace with which researchers adopted digital formats for conferences, lectures, and meetings revealed that currently available tools can substitute many of the physical interactions in the workplace. It also showed that academics are willing to use digital tools for scientific exchange. This article sheds light on scholars' experiences with digital formats and tools during the pandemic. We argue that digital interaction formats increase the inclusivity of knowledge exchange, reduce time and costs of organizing academic interactions, and enable more diverse workspaces with geographical and temporal flexibility. However, we also observe that digital interaction formats struggle to reproduce social interactions such as informal discussions, raise new concerns on data security, and can induce higher stress levels due to the blurring of the boundaries between work and private spaces. We argue that digital formats are not meant to substitute physical interactions entirely, but rather reshape how research communities operate and how academics socialize. We expect hybrid formats to emerge, which combine digital and physical interaction formats, and an increase in digital interactions between geographically distant working groups. We conclude that the time has come for digital interaction formats to be part of a new regime in the field of academic exchange.