To get research funding these days, academics are often asked to show how their research will have ‘impact’ — how it will benefit wider society. Our project aims to have impact by promoting an agenda of environmental and social responsibility. We make our events as welcoming to women and minorities and accessible to disabled participants as possible. Our project also has a comparatively very small carbon footprint and actively promotes environmental sustainability.
Large research projects usually have large carbon footprints. They often involve regular conferences, workshops, and presentations from guest speakers. Ours does, too. Most such events involve flying in several speakers from across the world. Generally, a significant percentage of research project budgets are spent on flights for invited speakers. But as part of our environmental sustainability agenda, we have eliminated paying for speakers’ flights almost completely. Instead, we use video-conferencing methods, and only invite speakers from outside Europe to contribute papers virtually. Alternatively, we invite non-European speakers who are already in the UK for other purposes. European speakers travel by train where possible. Project members also take the Eurostar to the continent to give papers.
Report on Sustainability
The technology and software which we plan to use the reduce the carbon footprint – GoToWebinar, Google Hangout, and Skype – have been available to academics for some time. But most academics do not use them at all, or not much. While many academics in the UK engage in virtual teaching and learning, virtual research events on the type we host are extremely rare. At the conclusion of the project, we will produce a report outlining our environmental impact activity. The report will discuss, firstly, our efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of the project by cutting flights and using public transport. It will also include details of our use of different virtual conferencing tenchonologies and their respective advantages. The report is not just for academics, but also for university-level research administrators and sustainability committees. We will also send it to non-academic organisations which regularly host conferences with multiple international partners. We hope it will inspire and teach others to work towards environmental sustainability, too.