Choking on carbon emissions from Greek academic paperwork

Costas E. Synolakis, Spyros Foteinis

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

3 Citations (Scopus)


Selection processes for academic jobs are notoriously open to criticism, but in Greece they have the additional drawback of leaving a hefty carbon footprint.

Typically, selection committees for research institutes require applicants for a senior post to submit 11 paper copies of each of their publications (the Greeks' expansive view of publication sometimes includes texts of oral presentations) as well as of their birth certificate, national identity card (both sides), transcripts, translations of foreign degrees, and military and police reports.

In one recent case, the committee stopped the process to ask the minister of development to decide whether one worthy candidate should be excluded on the grounds that he had submitted his 66 publications on 11 CDs instead of on paper.

What is the environmental impact of this nonsense? If candidates have an average of 50 publications each, a single copy of these, plus the additional paperwork required, can add up to a package of 1,000 pages per candidate. Making 11 copies of each, in an election with, say, four short-listed candidates, generates 44,000 sheets of paper. Excluding the cardboard boxes necessary to transport them, this works out to some 378 kg of CO2 per election (Solid Waste Management and Greenhouse Gases US Environmental Protection Agency, 1998). Almost all are later dumped in their original packaging, unopened.

University faculty positions are the worst, often being advertised at multiple levels. Candidates have to submit an identical package for each application level, copied to each voting member of the department. This can run to more than 100 complete sets of materials per candidate per position, contributing some 700 tonnes of greenhouse-gas emissions annually. Some of these cases end up being decided by the courts, so the pollution escalates.

It would help if the European Union would step in to curtail such wasteful and irresponsible practices.
Original languageEnglish
Article number167
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sept 2009


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