I am soon to finish my PhD and would love to do postdoctoral research (UK). However, for reasons I shan't go into, it is not viable for me to travel outside of my city and so I am unable to attend conferences/workshops/etc.

Is it feasible for me to obtain a postdoc position? Or do postdoc responsibilities necessarily entail travelling?

  • 11
    I know you said you don't want to share your reasons, but it may well be that people's willingness to accommodate you will depend on the reason. For instance, if you have a medical condition that makes it impossible for you to travel, you may have a fairly easy time getting conference organizers to let you present by videoconference. (In some jurisdictions, they may even be legally obligated to do so.) If your reason were "I can't get decent sushi outside London, so I'm never leaving", then maybe not so much. – Nate Eldredge Aug 31 '14 at 3:41
  • 2
    Also, for pete's sake, say what field you're in! You'll get totally different answers depending on what it is. – Ben Webster May 23 '17 at 0:44

This is somewhat field dependent, but your academic career could be much more challenging if your disability or other circumstances prevent you from traveling. You may need to travel to job interviews at the very least. Not attending conferences to present your research will reduce the visibility of your work, and so you will struggle to get your ideas well known in your field. This could reduce your job prospects. You will need to have your research products well-advertised on the web in order to have any name recognition. Your research may also have to be more ground-breaking in order to garner recognition.

If, for example, you work in Computer Science, conference publications are typically the most prestigious, so the inability to travel to present your work may mean that it is not published.

I don't mean to be too discouraging, but I think you should reevaluate whether or not you can make 1 or 2 trips per year in order to present your work. It may do wonders for how hard your career is otherwise.

On the plus side, you might also try talking to some conference organizers before you submit your work about presenting your results via video conference. I was at a workshop this week where a presenter couldn't make it due to a last-minute problem with his flight, and he gave a great presentation via Google Hangouts. He wasn't there to network, but at least his presentation happened. If your reasons for not traveling are due to disability (including mental disabilities like social anxiety, agoraphobia, etc.), the country where the conference happens may require that they try to accommodate your needs.

| improve this answer | |
  • 10
    Well, research isn't a solo effort, and having a coauthor from your lab present your results at conferences might be sufficient, though not optimal. – Peteris Aug 30 '14 at 17:27
  • 1
    Touching on the conference side, you can try to organise one. It is a lot of effort, though, and the viability it depends why you are unable to travel. – Davidmh Aug 30 '14 at 17:39
  • 1
    @Peteris, I disagree when it comes to future employment. If the coauthor does all the presenting, then the coauthor will get the vast majority of the name recognition, and they be there at the conference to network about assistant professor (or the like) positions. This is pretty critical for postdocs. – Bill Barth Aug 31 '14 at 12:15

It seems your main challenges will be:

  1. Getting some institute/person to hire you as a researcher despite this handicap (that is, assuming you're not hiding your situation).
  2. Getting to know and form relationships with people in your field.
  3. Collaborating with people without meeting them (unless they travel to where you are).
  4. Finding potential positions for after your your post-docs without having "shown your face" there, or to the people there.

In some fields these may be insurmountable. In most other fields their combination will make it extremely difficult - in my opinion - to be a successful researcher. So there's the question of whether you're interested in having what will quite possibly be a mediocre-at-best stint as a researcher.

An exception to the above would be if you're in a group where there's good division of labor, with other people doing a lot of traveling, but also being gracious enough to make the connection between yourself and researchers/interested parties elsewhere so that you're at least partially present. In that case I suppose it's half-manageable.

I can't speak to what primary researchers, or research groups/departments, will require of you; traveling may or may not be a strict requirement and it may or may not depend on the field of study and the country in which you work.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.