07 August 2008

Should conferences be necessary for faculty?

Departments should remove conference presentations as a requirement of job performance.

I love research conferences. They're one of my favourite parts of my job. But increasingly, I feel incredible guilt every time I travel by any means other than foot. Jet fuel is a big greenhouse gas source.

I will have to struggle with my own conscience over my own personal decisions to travel to conferences or not, but there is something institutional that can be done.

Right now, our department expects -- indeed, requires -- faculty give conference presentations to get tenure. I imagine it's the same in many other departments in many other universities.

It made perfect sense not too long ago to require conference presentations. It's not that long ago that video -- heck, even simple graphics -- on the net was a pain. (Some of you might remember the days of Gopher with me.) It was faster and more efficient to communicate by physically meeting in one place.

I'm not sure that's true now. Look at the phenomenal TED talks, for instance. We have reached the point where we can think about doing research communication very differently.

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