Professor Toby Jenkins, Department of Chemistry
Our research group works at the interface between materials chemistry, microbiology and clinical wound management. We are an interdisciplinary team of chemists, microbiologists and engineers with a focus on device prototyping and testing in clinical studies. In collaborating with partners, we previously travelled frequently throughout the UK, Europe, the US, Nepal and Myanmar (pre-Covid) and are still extensively travelling in the UK.
In travelling so much we have plenty of experience in different methods. Our experience is that rail travel in Europe and the UK is often cheaper – especially when travelling with equipment and chemicals which need to be checked in. We make extensive use of the excellent ‘Man in Seat61’ website. In terms of time, train travel can take longer, but the issue is about productive time: trying to work on a cramped EasyJet flight for a 2h flight to Berlin is near impossible; no space and the laptop has to be stowed for take-off and landing, with most of the journey spent on the ground in airport security, departure lounges or bus/car to the airport. The same journey by rail may take 8-9 hours, but nearly all that time can be productive if you wish it to be. I once drafted an entire paper manuscript on a train between Munich and Rotterdam. Travelling in the UK? Use split ticketing – it can save a fortune, and can be done on the Clarity travel booking website.
In our research group, we have a basic presumption against flying in the UK or Northern Europe. As the group leader I will not allow reimbursement for domestic air travel within the mainland UK and I strongly encourage rail travel for journeys to most of France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium as well as Basel and Zurich in Switzerland. We travel this way because it’s more productive, often cheaper, and of course because of the huge carbon emissions associated with flying. A flight to Frankfurt is 134 kg of CO2, versus 118 kg by car and 14 kg by rail (see https://www.bahn.de/p/view/index.shtml and look up the environmental impact check tool UmweltMobilCheck). By plane the journey is 3 hours 40 minutes, and by train it's 5 hours 36 minutes, centre to centre. I’d really encourage other research groups to explore the same. It’s actually (for the most part) fun, allows far greater productivity, and allows you to experience how (mostly) beautiful the UK and Europe is. The principal difficulty is accessing information – but use seat61.com to plan the journey before booking tickets. If booking is not possible through the university travel agency, we strongly recommend the German Railways website, which allows through booking from London to many German, Dutch and Swiss destination. Also, Clarity are launching a European train booking system in September 2021, which should make international rail booking easier.
Professor Petra Cameron, Department of Chemistry
Our research group focuses on solar cells, functional materials and electrochemistry. We collaborate with groups across the UK, Europe (particularly Spain, Germany and Austria), as well as groups in the USA, China, Turkey and Mexico. Travel is fundamental to collaborative research. We hold online collaboration meetings regularly, but it is essential to spend time in other research groups to learn new experimental techniques or to gain access to advanced measurement equipment.
In discussion with my group, we introduced a ‘green’ travel policy about four years ago. It was agreed that we would not fly within the UK and that we would travel to conferences within Europe by train where possible. It is particularly easy to get to meetings in the Netherlands, France and Germany via a combination of Eurostar and onward train or sleeper. I use the direct Eurostar from London to Amsterdam to do placement visits, it takes just over four hours and I can work on the train. My group attends an annual summer school in Austria and we always go by train, in fact the train journey through Germany has become part of the adventure and is a group bonding exercise in itself! We manage early morning meetings in Scotland by either staying overnight or taking the Caledonian sleeper from London. Both options are substantially lower carbon than flying and advance booking/split ticketing means that affordable fares are available. We have not seen any material difference in travel costs since we changed our policy – flights often seem cheap until the 5 am taxi to the airport is factored in!