Reconsidering alternative transportation systems to reach academic conferences and to convey an example to reduce greenhouse gas emissions


Scientists are typically responsible for greater greenhouse gas emissions than the general population. These ‘extra’ emissions are largely due to frequent travel, often by airplane, to professional and academic meetings. In the following commentary, we explore how employing mixed modes of transportation, particularly by prioritizing train travel, can significantly reduce the environmental costs associated with attending conferences. Estimating travel distances for attendants to recent meetings, we demonstrate that the proposed strategy has the potential to decrease emissions, even when considering exotic, remote (and potentially enticing) locations. Our suggestions are easy to implement, can be combined with previous proposals for reducing emissions, and provide an opportunity for scientists to convey an important message to the general public. This message is not confined to our particular example and we hope that it will encourage ecologists, sociologists and other scientists, historians and philosophers to pursue additional creative behavioural solutions in order to reduce our impact on an increasingly stressed ecosphere.

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Correspondence to Alba Cuena-Lombraña.

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Fois, M., Cuena-Lombraña, A., Fristoe, T. et al. Reconsidering alternative transportation systems to reach academic conferences and to convey an example to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. HPLS 38, 25 (2016).

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  • Academic conference planning
  • Researchers’ behavioural change
  • GHG emissions
  • Transportation
  • Sustainability