Given the substantial costs associated with long-distance travel (salaries in transit, airport shuttles, lodging, M&IE, airfares, paperwork preparation, etc.)--as well as the considerable environmental impacts of flying (http://www.ecologycenter.org/factsheets/travel_tips.html)--I would like to suggest that the coordinator of EVERY SINGLE meeting to which one or more Federal employees are authorized to travel be REQUIRED to provide a written justification (using a convenient online, web-based form) why the meeting could NOT be carried out by WebEx and conference call, instead. Many of us in the USGS have found WebEx-based meetings to be completely satisfactory for many of our purposes. As a result, the Federal government should be taking the lead in showing how the considerable costs of meetings can be reduced by substituting WebEx and conference-call formats for in-person gatherings--either in their entirety or by providing this as an option for some attendees. (At the end of this month, for example, I will be delivering my second presentation to EPA by calling into the meeting location from my office [with someone there changing the PowerPoint slides for me], rather than flying across the country to attend. Such approaches should be MUCH more widespread, and more widely encouraged, within the Federal government. The final decision about whether or not a given in-person meeting should be replaced by an on-line gatherings should be made by a supervisor in a position equivalent to that of the coordinator's supervisor--but with no direct connection to the coordinator or the meeting itself, in order to avoid any bias in their decision. Of course, there would be many additional details to work out here, but I'm confident that objective criteria for making such decisions could easily be devised--and would be willing to help with such an effort. Thank you for reading this!
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