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Why Fly? 13th November 2019

13th November 2019 @ 9:30 am - 4:00 pm GMT

Symposium on ‘Reducing academic flying’

University of Sheffield, UK – ICOSS, ICOSS Conference Room
Wednesday, 13 November 2019, 9:30 to 16:00

About | Programme | Find out more

If universities are to contribute their share to urgently needed and radical cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, they must tackle their dependence on air travel. Acceptance of the climate crisis is increasingly mainstream, with formal recognition by an increasing range of public bodies, including universities. A small number of studies on universities’ total emissions suggest flying typically accounts for 10-20% of a research-intensive university’s total (scope 1, 2 & 3) emissions. The prospects for significant improvements in the efficiency of flying are very limited. Consequently, academic flight is increasingly problematised and debated.

About the symposium

This symposium draws together international expertise from research on flying, and from experiences of initiatives aimed at reducing it. The symposium will involve the presentation of conceptual perspectives on academic flying to help to explore experiences of personal and institutional measures to reduce flying. This will inform collective discussion and reflection to develop research agendas and potential research collaborations, including as pathways to effective action.

Some groups of academics have taken a lead by developing policy on reducing the amount they fly, or not flying at all (e.g. Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Lund University Centre for Sustainable Studies and Université de Neuchâtel). Also, there have been a number of conferences and events related to reducing flying in academia and generally (e.g. Flying Less: Reducing Academia’s Carbon Footprint webinar and “Degrowth of Aviation” Conference). As well as some academic conferences which have experimented with ways of organising meetings that reduce the need for academics to fly (e.g. Society for Cultural Anthropology conferenceand Global Arts and Psychology Seminar).

There are a few studies that have begun to research academic flying and alternative low carbon possibilities for travelling, meeting and collaborating (Caset, Boussauw, & Storme, 2018; Gärdebo, Nilsson, & Soldal, 2017; Glover, Strengers, & Lewis, 2017; Nevins, 2014; Nursey-Bray, Palmer, Meyer-Mclean, Wanner, & Birzer, 2019; Waring, Teisl, Manandhar, & Anderson, 2014; Wynes, Donner, Tannason, & Nabors, 2019). However, there are many aspects associated with academic flying which have had limited consideration including: academics’ identities and flying; universities internationalisation and academics’ flying; and, personal and university benefits of academics flying less.


Time Event
9:30-10:00 Arrival with refreshments
10:00-10:15 Introduction: purposes for the day (Matt Watson and Steve Allen)
10:15-11:15 Conceptualising academic flying (12-15 mins each plus discussion):

  • Monika Buscher, Lancaster University, UK – ‘Why do we fly? A discussion of the compulsions and affordances of proximity and connected presence in academic work
  • Andrew Glover, RMIT, Australia (virtually) – ‘Remoteness and air travel: Australian academics experience of flying for work
  • James Faulconbridge, Lancaster University, UK – ‘Conceptualising demand for flying: the ‘synthetic situation’ of academic work
11:15-11:30 Break
11:30-12:30 Reflections on initiatives for, and experiences of, flying-less (10-12 mins each plus discussion):

  • Joseph Nevins, Vassar, USA (virtually) – ‘Flying Less As Anti-Violence Practice
  • Sion Pickering, University of Edinburgh, UK – ‘Improving data reporting and stakeholder engagement to support organisational change
  • Kim Nicholas, Lund University, Sweden (virtually) – ‘Adopting, implementing, and scaling up an academic flying less
    policy: Lessons from Lund, Sweden
  • Renee Timmers, University of Sheffield, UK – ‘A semi-virtual multi-hub conference format to reduce flying and increase inclusivity of academic conferences
12:30-13:15 Lunch
13:15-14:15 Current studies and future research possibilities (10-12 mins each plus discussion):

  • Debbie Hopkins, University of Oxford, UK – ‘The tyranny of distance? Academic air travel beyond Europe/America
  • Stuart Capstick, Cardiff University, UK – ‘International survey research on the use of aviation by climate change researchers: who does it, and how can we reduce it?
  • Johan Gärdebo, KTH, Sweden (virtually) – ‘The Travelling Scientist: How Academics Respond to Carbon-Intensive Scholarship in the Early Twenty-first Century
14:15-14:35 Project conversation groups selection around key emerging questions and areas
14:35-15:30 Project group discussions and action plan development
15:30-16:00 Project groups report back on action plans and symposium
16:00 Close


13th November 2019
9:30 am - 4:00 pm GMT
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University of Sheffield
219 Portobello, Sheffield S1 4DP
Sheffield, S1 4DP United Kingdom
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