Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Costs of academic travel culture

Great blog by Race MoChridhe, London School of Economics and PoliSci, on how academic travel culture is both bad for the planet and also bad for equity and diversity in research:   https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2019/03/19/academic-travel-culture-it-is-not-only-bad-for-the-planet-it-also-bad-for-the-diversity-and-equity-of-research/ 

This paragraph resonates with me, given the 5 - 6 weeks per year that my husband subsidizes my conference and committee travel, and an additional 36 - 48 evenings or weekend days of academic leadership commitments, and takes on the entire burden of home and childcare during my absence:

These burdens fall primarily upon women because, whether they are the wives of academics or are academics themselves, they are far more likely to be primary caregivers for relatives of all kinds (including their own children) and are generally responsible for a far greater share of the other domestic work that keeps a household together. When we tie professional advancement in the academy to participation in conferences and on committees that require extensive travel, we are too often asking for what is simply impossible to give, either in terms of their own time or of a spouse’s. This is an arrangement that disproportionately favors those without family commitments, which is much more likely to mean men. Just as there is a certain degree of myopia, if not outright hypocrisy, in our collective professional agitation for action on climate change, while maintaining our jet-set lifestyle, so too the continued reliance on conference and committee travel in the digital age discredits our claims to desiring greater gender equity.

I agree with Race that meeting face-to-face at conferences has value; however, with contemporary technology we can be much more creative in the ways we gather together groups of academics to share ideas, offer feedback and critique and build original knowledge in ways that reduce the academic travel footprint on the environment, and remove barriers to equity and diversity in research engagement.