I am planning to go to one of the U.S. universities for sabbatical. (I do not live in U.S.) Most of my salary will be paid by my university, but my host university will pay for my apartment in the U.S. and provide health insurance for me and my family.

When I asked people I am going to visit what they expect me to do during the sabbatical, I was told that I am expected to regularly attend a specific seminar.

Is it generally ok if, in addition, I also regularly attend one more seminar, which is organized by another group of people (who do not pay me)? Would it create any conflict of interests? The second seminar is not connected directly to my field, but I am just curious about it.

  • 1
    Do you mean in addition or instead?
    – Arno
    Jul 2 at 15:59
  • Yes. Corrected. Thank you.
    – MKO
    Jul 2 at 16:07

I don't think this would ever raise an ethical concern. Your stipends and such aren't provided to make you think in a particular way even if you are funded to provide some assistance to a particular group. Using a sabbatical to expand your reach is an excellent use of the opportunity. Have a bit of fun while you are at it also. Nothing wrong with that.

Do what is expected of you, but don't limit yourself beyond that. Sabbaticals would be pretty useless if they didn't permit professors to expand their professional horizons.

One thing to watch out for, though, is that some departments can be incredibly political (office politics and beyond), with a lot of ill feeling between groups. Don't get caught in the middle of any such things. I doubt that this is a universal, but I've seen it happen. Newcomers don't see all the signs.


They’re just setting a minimum bar for what it means for you to be visiting them. You’re free to do any other things you want like anyone else in the department. They just want to make sure that you’re actually interacting with the department and not say actually just traveling around the US the whole time.


The goal of a sabbatical is to expose yourself to new ideas, grow as a researcher, and contribute from your knowledge to the local community you are visiting. The goal of a seminar is to spread knowledge and foster collaboration. So go, have fun, and attend as many seminars as you like, this is 100% consistent with the intended purpose of sabbaticals and seminars. Anyone who doesn’t want you in their seminar or going to someone else’s seminar has an extremely misguided approach to research and to academic life. For the record, I’ve never in my life met a person in mathematics who holds such strange views.


Your home institution has a reason for paying most of your salary while you travel elsewhere and don't have your usual teaching duties. I would expect that part (or maybe all) of that reason is to enable you to expand your knowledge and interests. So think of that second seminar as the "work" for which they pay your salary.

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