I haven't really traveled since the Spring of 2020, and I will unlikely to do so within the next year or longer (not counting local visits within driving distance). These are all due to family and personal health issues, and it's hard to say how soon will situations change.

My field is applied/computation mathematics. Participating in conferences and visiting colleagues have been an important component in "working". It is even more important to me, since I'm in a very small department. Now these have all stopped.

Is it possible to maintain a career in mathematics with limited travel? If yes, how?

Additional background: I am recently tenured, and I have a developed a pretty good network of colleagues so that I'm still "talking" to people albeit not in person. I have plenty of questions to work on, and, for now, I have funding. Although I suppose this question may apply to many people.

  • 1
    For a year? Or the foreseeable future? Jul 15, 2022 at 18:01
  • I think you need to be clearer about what your career goals are. Jul 15, 2022 at 21:54
  • 3
    If you're tenured, then yes, of course it's possible to maintain your career. Jul 16, 2022 at 17:10
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    I just returned from a conference where the organizers decided to only allow presentations from physically present people. You could listen in and ask questions vitually, but to present a paper, you had to be onsite. Personally, given the technical problems in a hybrid conference (either fully offline or fully online were far easier), I support this decision. In such a case, it depends on how important presenting your paper is. If you already have a network, great. If not, such a situation will make life very hard. (I assume justified exemptions would be possible at this conference.) Jul 16, 2022 at 18:52
  • @GregMartin, "maintain my career" as in not get fired? Well, I'm hoping to do slightly better than that.
    – Bilbo
    Jul 18, 2022 at 18:38

2 Answers 2


All sorts of things happen virtually these days, from writing reports for scientific organizations to writing papers with colleagues to developing scientific software packages. I see no particular good reason why it should not be possible to have a productive scientific career without traveling at all, and I know colleagues who for family reasons have not been able to travel in any significant way for several years already.

The question is, for the most part, whether you have a scientific network that can sustain your research career for the next few years. That means having existing and finding potential new collaborators to write papers and proposals with, who invite you to give (virtual) seminar talks at their institutions, etc. This works pretty well for me, for example, never having written a lot of papers with people from my home institution to begin with. But it's a question about your past style of collaboration, and how willing and interested you are in getting yourself into new collaborations with new people.

In other words, I think it is possible and maybe not all that difficult either. At the same time, I can also totally see how for some people who are maybe more reserved, not being able to travel cuts them off from the rest of the scientific community. It all depends on your style of work and your existing network.


I've been forced to isolate a few times over the years, and things are much better now in terms of technology than even in 2017. Most academics have learned to use video technology, shared folders, shared editing etc. Some were previously motivated by climate change to reduce their travel, but it was the pandemic that really got things moving. There are many things you can do to stay connected, and having grant money will really help.

I have found that most sources of travel funding can be used to have others visit you just as well as for you to travel to conference. You can host a very small workshop and bring in a few people you work well with, or have them visit you one at a time. This assumes are are able to still meet in person locally. Ideally you have colleagues who can travel easily.

If you write joint papers, you can perhaps have your coauthor give talks and report back to you.

If you are in a field that uses conference proceedings as the leading form of publication, things are harder. I am not qualified to comment on that.

So, yes, you can do good research with little or no travel. I've been on restricted travel for many years. Certainly, little travel is easier than no travel. In some cases you can get extra funds to cover higher travel expenses. That depends on local factors so it is hard to be specific.

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