No starting point for scientific collaboration is better than face-to-face conversation. Conferences are good places to meet potential collaborator, but another way is to invite them to visit your institute/group and negotiate for possible collaborations.

However, when inviting a colleague from long distance (e.g. crossing the Atlantic), it is difficult to cover the cost of the flight (particularly as it significantly varies and hard to justify its necessity). Sometimes, the visitors has better access to available fund to cover his/her trip. Of course, it is easier to cover the cost of accommodation.

How do you invite a potential collaborator to visit your institute when you cannot cover his/her flight cost? Isn't it rude to invite someone and quote you must come on your own expenses as we cannot cover it? Note that the relationship is quite formal with least personal acquaintance (no joint work yet).

  1. Some schools do offer certain amount of money to help in invited speakers' expenses.

  2. If you do not have any sufficient fund to cover this, you can ask your colleagues (i.e. other faculty members) to help you out. Note that if they won't benefit from the speaker then most likely they will not participate in this.

  3. Meet him/her in a conference; this seems to be a very realistic option. Actually, I think it is a better idea to meet him/her in the conference even if you are able to cover the expenses. Meet over cup of coffee and discuss the potential contribution and if needed settle another appointment at the hotel lobby.

  • +1 for the suggestion to ask your school or department chair about helping with funding. – Chris Gregg Mar 9 '13 at 10:07
  • payment for an invited lecture is far less than the cost of an international flight. I believe visit at one of the institute is much better, as it will give chance to visit other group members and facilities. – Googlebot Mar 9 '13 at 10:09

With apologies, and a firm understanding that lack of funding may be a dealbreaker.

It would certainly help if you can cover part of the expenses: "If you are ever in [Country X], I hope you will also visit [my institution] and we would be happy to pay for your hotel [or else do you have a couch?] and pay for around [small number] towards your travel expenses. You are of course very welcome to make a special trip but I regret that funding is tight and we would be unable to pay your international travel expenses."

... or something like that.


Try to arrange their visit close to a conference in your field that is held on your continent (domestic or intra-European flights are cheap, so you can probably cover that). Either have the visit just before or just after a big conference which the visitor will attend anyway means easier funding and easier scheduling for them (most people can only schedule so many around-the-world business trips per year). I have used that “trick” a lot, both when inviting people and when visiting other groups.

Also, look for binational grant programs that may be awarded for such purposes, there are some (but it obviously depends on the countries involved).

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