Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My talk at Transforming Transportation 2018 and personal impressions on TRB

The two conferences have quite different audiences, though, and I had to adapt my presentation accordingly. While TRB is a typical academic conference, TT is more policy oriented and mostly attended by high-level practitioners. So it was a bit of a challenge to tailor the presentation for TT, particularly because I was only given about 8 minutes  and I was super nervous . I had to cut most of the important 'details' of the research methods and findings which I think make the original contribution of the paper.

Here is the result. My talk at Transforming Transportation 2018 was recorded and you can watch it below.

If you have time, I would recommend watching the whole video and check the talk by Joanna Moody (MIT), who is the other Lee Schipper awardee of 2017 and who is conducting a very interesting research on 'car pride' in different countries. The video also brings a bit more context about the Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarship. Applications to the 2018 Lee Schipper award are open, by the way.

Here are a few personal impressions on the TRB conference:
  • The TRB annual meeting is perhaps the largest academic conference on transportation, with approx 15 thousand people. And I thought the annual conference of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) was big with 9k
  • As you can imagine, the most demanded sessions at TRB were on big data, sharing economy and smart cities and all possible combinations of these topics. I am sure there must have been a session on the potentials of big data to inform the mobility sharing economy and create smarter cities
  • There were a few dozens of studies on transportation equity, multimodal accessibility analysis, socio-spatial inequalities and segregation using all sorts of data sources such as GTFS, GPS, mobile phones, social media etc. A lot of work is now being conducted in R as well. Only few studies, though, would do a good job at combing robust methods/data to a more theoretically grounded view of accessibility measures and transportation equity, including a more critical understanding of these issues.

It was a humbling experience to attend TRB and one of the takeaway lessons I took with me is this. 
  1. The academic environment is getting more competitive, with many more good scholars taking advantage of the richer data sources available out there and conducting super interesting research using cutting edge methods and open source software. The frontier is moving quickly.
  2.  Beyond the increasing challenge of getting published, it is getting harder to stand out from the crowd and write studies that will be read/cited for having a real impact within the academic community. It is easier nowadays to write good papers. It is becoming harder, however, to give an original contribution.
  3. The bright side of this story, though, it that on the technical side it is getting relatively easier to use the state of art methods/data from academic research to tackle 'real' problems, improve public policies etc  on the political and governance side things are crazier than ever, though