For those of us who teach and do research at a research university, one challenge of simultaneously teaching and doing research is how to deal with the travel that is necessary for the research but that conflicts with the responsibilities of teaching.
Even though summer has just started, I am already making decisions about travels for the next academic year, and trying to decide how to balance teaching responsibilities with research-related travel. There are some conferences I have to attend (2), some I would like to attend (2 others), and some invitations to give talks at other universities. There is other travel I would like to do (e.g., visit colleagues and other labs). However, even if I wanted to be away that much, I am teaching 2 classes in the fall and taking a class as a student. So, I am trying to restrict my travel to the minimum: the 2 essential conferences. My grad students will represent our group just fine at any conferences I can't attend, and I will try to schedule all invited talks for the spring semester, when I am team-teaching and have a more open schedule.
And, yes, some conferences are essential for presenting results and for networking. A colleague of mine recently filed his annual NSF report and didn't report any conference presentations,and there were no papers or theses yet to report; the program director rejected his report. My colleague did in fact have conference presentations to report, but he didn't think these were important to mention. He added the abstract citations, and the report was accepted.
Even with my plans for limited travel in the fall, I will miss 3 classes for one course, and 2 for another. There are various ways to deal with these absences, including:
- scheduling an exam for a day I will be away, if the timing makes sense for an exam then. In the pre-email era, I never scheduled exams for times I would be away, unless I was around up until very close to the time of the exam. Now that students are most likely to email me with questions, I can help them remotely just as well as if I'm in my office. If I'm going to be away for 2 classes in a week, I schedule the exam for the first absence, and cancel the second one. It's more difficult if the class meets less and/or doesn't have exams, but in these cases I provide an extended, structured activity that can be accomplished with small working groups and email input from me.
- arranging for a substitute: a grad student, postdoc, or colleague. This can work well as long as not overdone, and can be a good experience for a grad student or postdoc (as well as providing additional good material for letters of reference). This fall, I have an informal agreement to trade substitute activities with a colleague who will also be traveling a lot. I've taught his course before and he's taught mine, so it's an easy trade.
I have never left a movie to be shown to a class while I'm away, but I suppose this would be OK as long as the movie was well justified in the context of the class.
It would be best for my teaching if I didn't miss any classes, but that's not possible.