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Faculty Adventures in Cyberspace!

In this column we ask SPEA faculty members to describe their relationship to the Internet, e-mail, and related gadgetry. This month we go online with Clint Oster, Professor and Associate Dean, Bloomington Programs.

clint osterWhat are your favorite work-related Web sites and why do you like them?
Most of my research is related in some way to the airline industry, both domestic and international. The availability of data on the Web has changed the way all of us in this field do our research. My favorite work-related Web site is the FAA’s National Aviation Safety Data Analysis Center (http://www.faa.gov/safety/data_statistics/nasdac/). Through this site, we can access all the accident data for the United States and limited data on major accidents worldwide. When we first started doing safety research, we had to persuade the people at the National Transportation Safety Board to mail us hard copy of the specific information we needed. Another useful site is the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (http://www.bts.gov/). Here, we can download much of the airlines operations data we need. Before, we used to have to copy it from books in the Government Documents Section in the Main Library. Another line of research we’re doing is a comparison of the way air traffic control systems are designed, operated, and managed in various countries around the world. For this work, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization’s Web site has been quite helpful (http://www.canso.org/canso/web/), as it has the financial information about the U.S. Aviation Trust Fund that the FAA provides (http://www.faa.gov/airports_airtraffic/trust_fund/).

Where do you go on the Web for fun?
When I’m not at SPEA, one of the things I do is serve as an accident investigator for the Indy Racing League, so I enjoy looking at their Web site (http://www.indyracing.com/home.php) to keep up with what happens at the races I don’t attend. Also, my wife and I have a cabin in Montana and we like to use the Web to keep up on the wildfire conditions in the late summer and early fall when we’re not there (http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/news_info/index.html) and the snow pack conditions in the winter (http://www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/snow/snow.cgi). It’s also convenient to use the Web to keep up on the news. The sites I check daily are www.cnn.com, www.nytimes.com, and www.washingtonpost.com.

How has your work life changed as a result of the Internet and e-mail?
Most of my research is done in collaboration with a colleague at another university. In addition to the Internet making it easier for us to get the information we need, e-mail makes it much easier to work together without having to make trips back and forth between the two universities. We use e-mail to share data and analytical results and even to edit one another’s draft manuscripts. A second change is that it’s possible to be out of town, either on a short trip or for part of the summer, and keep up on most of my work at SPEA. Of course, the down side of that convenience is that work can sometimes intrude on what is supposed to be a vacation, but that doesn’t happen too often.

Beyond that, I try not to let e-mail change how I interact with students and colleagues. I still prefer to have a face-to-face conversation when students have a question or need help and, whenever possible, I would still rather talk to colleagues than e-mail them.

Do you have any other gadgets (PDA, Blackberry)?
I used a PDA for several years until I was “forced” to get a Blackberry when I took on the job of Associate Dean. I have to admit, though, that the Blackberry has been more convenient than I’d expected. I used to have to take my laptop along on short trips just to keep up on e-mail and now if I don’t need my laptop for other work, I can leave it at home and just take the Blackberry.

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