Over at IHE, Joshua Kim asks whether we're ready to go back to conference travel and whether we have any conference travel planned for this year.
Answering second part first: Yes, I do have conference travel planned.
Answering first part second: No, Joshua. I am so not ready.
Why? Let me count the reasons.
1. Judging by what I've read and saw when I was on Twitter, travel is a nightmare right now. Expensive flights. Canceled flights. Hours on the phone to rebook the flights. No rental cars. Filthy rental cars that break down. This is all quite apart from the necessity of being Niles Crane and wiping down surfaces, not eating so you won't have to remove your mask--and a significantly higher risk of people acting out in the air.
2. Somewhat related: all kinds of systems and protocols are changing all the time right now, especially internationally. There's a mask mandate. No, there isn't. You have to quarantine. Well, maybe not, but you have to test within 24 hours. It's natural that advice constantly changes, and it's right that we get the best information, but planning isn't easy. And--bonus--when you get there, you will not be seeing people's faces, because they will have masks on.
3. Also somewhat related: Did I mention that there's this pesky global pandemic still going on? One with a hugely infectious Delta variant that's getting worse every week? And that kids under 12 can't be vaccinated yet? And that if you're vaccinated you might not get as sick, but you still might get sick? Am I the only one who knows this?
It's like the options in the "Spam, spam, & spam" Monty Python skit, where they're give options like "spam, spam, eggs, and spam" and "eggs, spam, and eggs" but there is no option without spam, just one "that's not got much spam in it." We don't have a virus-free option, just one that, if we're vaccinated, has "not got much spam (virus) in it."
4. It's expensive. I pay my own work travel, most of the time, since our travel allowance for the year is never enough; sometimes it covers most of one conference, but most of the time not. Figure $1500 minimum for a conference, between airfare, hotels, conference fees, cabs/Lyft/Uber, meals; it all adds up. Those thousands of dollars winging across the country to present a paper? It's mostly out of pocket, from my laughably titled vacation fund.
5. With his authority, Kim says "Zoom conferences are the worst." With my authority, I say, "No they aren't." If the purpose is to schmooze with others and go out to dinner, then no, Zoom can't do it all. If the purpose is lively intellectual conversation, then yes, it can.
But apart from "Zoom conferences are terrible," I'm with Joshua Kim on this one.
How about you?