Monday, January 26, 2009

How Many Roads?

Most of my professorial colleagues travel a lot during the academic year and during the summer, as do I. In 2007, I discussed the issue of academic year professional travel in terms of how to deal with missing a class (for example: trade teaching with a colleague? cancel class? show a movie? ask a grad student/postdoc to substitute for you?). Now I am curious about how much we travel. That is, I am feeling very quantitative.

I am feeling quantitative because I have before me the number of miles I flew last year on one particular airline: 69,287 (= 111,044 km). In a random poll of two colleagues in my department, their numbers are similar: one flew 57k miles and the other 62k (down from > 75k the previous two years). Of course, not all professional travel is by airplane, though here in the US it tends to be.

Overall, I think I travel more now than I did at earlier stages of my career, with a few prominent exceptions when I was a Distinguished Lecturer or something like that. I think the increase in travel is mostly related to professional factors and not so much to personal factors (e.g., the age of my daughter), although the duration of some of my professional trips has increased now that my daughter is older.

Below are some polls, organized by professorial rank and not controlled for the size of the country or continent that one inhabits.

If you are a professor, how much did you travel LAST YEAR (calendar year 2008), and has this number changed (up, down, not) as you have progressed through the academic ranks? For assistant professors, 'previous academic rank' refers to the graduate student and/or postdoctoral stages of one's career.

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR/PROFESSIONAL TRAVEL
0-24,999 miles (0-40,232 km)
25,000-49,999 miles (40,234-80,466 km)
50,000-74,999 miles (80,467-120,699 km)
>75,000 miles (>120,701 km)
Free polls from Pollhost.com



Compared to your previous academic rank, this is
more travel
less travel
the same amount of travel
Free polls from Pollhost.com



ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR/PROFESSIONAL TRAVEL
0-24,999 miles (0-40,232 km)
25,000-49,999 miles (40,234-80,466 km)
50,000-74,999 miles (80,467-120,699 km)
>75,000 miles (>120,701 km)
Free polls from Pollhost.com



Compared to your previous academic rank, this is
more travel
less travel
the same amount of travel
Free polls from Pollhost.com



PROFESSOR/PROFESSIONAL TRAVEL
0-24,999 miles (0-40,232 km)
25,000-49,999 miles (40,234-80,466 km)
50,000-74,999 miles (80,467-120,699 km)
>75,000 miles (>120,701 km)
Free polls from Pollhost.com



Compared to your previous academic rank, this is
more travel
less travel
the same amount of travel
Free polls from Pollhost.com

12 comments:

EuropeanFemaleScienceProfessor said...

Of course, Europe will skew your numbers :) There are lots of universities and colleges within a 50 km radius that I have spoken at in recent years.

Travel "abroad" = outside of Europe is getting much more difficult, as funding is rather non-existent at the lower ranks. One trip to the US will bump you waaaaay up on your scales. And we have different degrees of professorships than in the US.

So these numbers, while fun, are probably pretty meaningless :)

Hmm, the captcha begins with "grant", does that mean my travel grant will come through today?

Anonymous said...

A metric that I have tracked for years (at my family's request) is the number of nights I am away from home. From their perspective, it doesn't matter whether I am in Pittsburgh or Reykjavik (both actual trips from last year). We have found it useful to keep track of this year to year so there is an objective answer to the "how much travel" question.

Anonymous said...

I go to 3 conferences a year and give about 4 invited seminars. However, I try to consolidate trips- for example, two conferences can be attended back to back, and I usually do it; if I'm invited in a place that is geographically close to an other U, I try to get an invitation there as well. I'm pre-tenure, so....
Further, because of where I live I can drive to a major conference hub.

Anonymous said...

I think some people are answering both questions and then only clicking on "vote" for the second question. The second questions of each pair have many more votes than the first questions. SO heads-up, everybody, you have to click vote separately for each poll question.

Anonymous said...

That's a mighty carbon footprint, 34,644 lbs. CO2 for that many airline miles.

Anonymous said...

I travelled most as a postdoc and doubt that I will ever travel that much again. I had a completely open fellowship, a generous travel grant and colleagues (and a wife) on different continents.

Now I am an associate prof and I travel slightly more than when I was an assistant prof -- the extra is mostly committee work. I am both bored with travel and anxious about leaving my family. I turn down way more invitations and am just generally more protective of my time and attention.

John said...

Good questions and comments - this is hard to quantify.

I see about 1 trip out of state per month, spread across job responsibilities, conferences, and professional committees. A few are drives, flights are distributed among numerous airlines, some I never saw the ticket except in email. One's travel evolves with seniority, I guess trending upward, but field work changes to organization and review committees.

My wife, another prof in my dept, has travel that impinges on mine, and which has evolved with her seniority as well. Our daughter needs some supervision, despite what she thinks.

And travel does bring the carbon footprint question. Another issue for me is most European (international) conferences have proven disorganized and with a high rate of no-shows, despite their potential for adding on a nice vacation with travel already paid. So I've only been going to abroad meetings in Japan and Canada for a while.

Principle Investigator said...

Now that I am an assistant professor at a SLAC, there is considerably less funding available for travel than when I had a postdoctoral fellowship. Forget trips to Europe - we can basically only attend conferences within driving distance (ditto for inviting seminar speakers). Not to mention that it is now much harder to get away during the semester for my favorite meetings because of teaching obligations.

Not Just Academic said...

Following up on the anonymous comment on carbon footprints, that's the #1 reason why I travel less now than I did at my previous rank.

If there's a conference at a far-flung location that requires flying, I only travel if it's the best possible conference for me to attend with irreplaceable opportunities to meet vital people. This hasn't occurred for the last few years as there have always been other, equally beneficial meetings closer to home. This is all very different to earlier years when I whizzed around the planet at every opportunity with blithe disregard for climate change...

ScienceWoman said...

My answers are heavily influenced by the fact now as an assistant professor I have a toddler, and a PhD student, I didn't. Travel is a lot more restricted at least for a few years.

But I like the suggestion about nights away from home as a more relevant question...unless your intent was to get a feel for the CO2 footprints.

Anonymous said...

That's a mighty carbon footprint, 34,644 lbs. CO2 for that many airline miles.

It's pretty awful. In my subfield of CS, conferences are the main venue for dissemination. I did 3 international conferences last year, plus 2 that were on the opposite side of the country (almost as far as flying across the Atlantic). I really want to go to fewer conferences, partly for the environment, but I need the publications, and hardly anyone's going to see them if they go to our journals.

Anonymous said...

I travel much less as a tenured Associate Prof than I did as an Assistant Prof -- or as a grad student for that matter.

The place I work has very little travel money and I haven't been funded on grants for a while. So even if I get $500 of travel support I have to come up with the remaining $600-700. Out of what, I always wonder -- am I supposed to manage a 7-11 on the side?

We have no sales tax in my state. We have very little support for higher ed here. So I travel very little. Webcasts are us.