15 October 2009

Do you need to go to that conference?

ResearchBlogging.orgToday is Blog Action Day, when bloggers are encouraged to write about a single topic to spark debate. This year, the topic is climate change.

Research posters are created for research conferences, particularly the big, international conferences where there are more people than you could possibly have opportunities to give talks. I love those conferences. Attending conferences and presenting at them is one of my favourite things about being a researcher.

Unfortunately, big conferences can have a substantial carbon footprint. Lester (2007) wrote:

Every December, geoscientists descend on San Francisco for the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). In 2002, the 9500 participants traveled an average of 7971 kilometers to get there and back. That means their share of the carbon dioxide emitted by the planes they flew on totals about 11,000 metric tons – roughly the same as 2250 Honda Civics during a year’s worth of normal driving.

Before you start working on that poster, think hard about the conference, the distance to it, and what you expect to get out of it. Ask, “Do I need to go to that conference?”


Lester B. 2007. Sustainable science: Greening the meeting Science 318: 36-38. doi: 10.1126/science.318.5847.36

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