Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Guilt Trip

Some attendees at the recent EGU meeting spent an evening getting worked up over the environmental cost of the event. Here's a report of the debate. I don't pretend to have any really good answers - large meetings are probably relatively efficient, in the sense that an attendee gets to meet a whole lot of people in a single trip (potential interactions increase as n2), although it does end up being a bit superficial at times. Jules and I also try to combine some sort of holiday with any trip we take to Europe - this time, her Dad also attended the meeting, and last time I went (2 years ago), my parents joined us in Vienna. So at least we rarely fly outside of work, despite being temporarily the far side of the world from all of our relatives.

I won't deny that travel is a bit of a perk of the job (although too much is a pain). If we didn't get to leave our cubicles every so often, probably even fewer people would be prepared to do the job. (Not sure if that would be a good or a bad thing.) As I said previously, if the price of travel was higher, we would probably adjust our methods somewhat, but we have to use our limited budgets efficiently. It's worse than that, actually - Japanese rules mandate that the salary bill of research institutes are capped, so currently any spare funding has to be spent on things like foreign travel and umbrella dryers, rather than paying a real human to do some real work. I'm not joking about umbrella dryers, either.

I'm off to Belgium in a couple of weeks. Oops.

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