Monday, 19 May 2008

I meant to draw more attention to this when I first read it in April. It's on 'the academic climate', an excellent post from the exquisitely titled and frequently brilliant I Cite blog. It's a testament to the quality of the post and the ideas that I -- whose memory is so... what' s the word? -- have remembered after all this time to come back to it.

The basic argument is that 'If academics were serious about climate change, we'd stop flying so much.' It's a debate that is long overdue. Here's a snippet:

What about ending small meetings, the small expert, invitation only conferences that solidify networks and often lead to edited volumes or special issues of journals? What about ending mega-conferences, the huge national and international conferences of over 5000 people? Are these really necessary? No one goes to every panel when 70 are scheduled at the same time. No one even attends all the panels in their speciality. No one even has face time with all the people they want to meet. Sure, it's fun to meet with friends, to see what scholar x looks like close up. But many complain about the big meetings anyway--they are impersonal, meat-markets, degrading, and, well, big.
And maybe it's no longer a question of if academics are serious about climate change, but maybe everyone else should be and start to put limits on these activities, for business as well as academia.

As I commented on the blog when I first read it, the illusion of a jet-set lifestyle is one of the few perks to a workforce otherwise battered and belittled at every turn. (Yup. 'Michael'. That one was me.) But that's no excuse, especially when there are plenty of alternatives nowadays, alternatives which not only include travel with less air-travel (I can highly recommend the train to everyone) but also plenty of e-options that are not only good enough but in some cases might actually be better. Am I the only one that feels that the whole 'conference thing' has been going on for so long that we've seemed to switch off and just go through the motions. Surely it's time to shake things up with some innovative methods?

I'm not saying 'no flying, no conferences', but surely there's a desperate need here for change?

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