Academic conferences – to go or not to go

November 6th, 2016    Admin    Conference

Academic conferences are essential to all research disciplines.  Aside from written publications, such as research journals and books, academic conferences provide the best opportunity for academics to form connections with the academic world, separate from their own research institution or project. For academics, it is worthwhile to organise such major events, usually without the aid of an event planner and despite limited budgets and time.

For the researcher, there are two options when considering attending an academic conference: to present their own studies and research or attend as listeners and participate in discourse.  Depending on the needs of the researcher both options are advantageous.

One must consider the aim of attending the conference; if it is to gain insight into a new research sphere the participant is unfamiliar with, participation without presentation is the best choice as an understanding of the subject is not essential.  This option is especially useful for academics new to a field of interest, who have not gained the experience of a regular conference guest.  If the aim of attending the conference is to gain insight into an unfamiliar topic the participant can gain an understanding by attending and participating in informal discussion.  Networking whilst attending an academic conference gently forces one to meet people and establish contacts. Do take the time to read up on the institution or organisation hosting the conference before you go.  Moreover, involvement in the organisation holding the conference will be very effective in networking strategy than simply attending and presenting.  It will offer contact with a greater number of academics in the field of interest and these academics will have more of an incentive to network with you.

Yet if an academic desires to become known by other researchers and to create links for future cooperation, it would be ideal to present a paper to increase awareness and promote discussion.  Speaking provides the opportunity to promote credentials to more senior academics.  An invitation to present a keynote paper or to sit on a panel during a discussion session comes with successful development of a reputation, and is viewed as an honour or recognition of one’s work.  Academic conferences are planned around several keynote speeches or panel sessions to attract academic’s to the conference and give times when all attendees can join. Keynote papers are typically published due to the significance of publishing to academic careers.

There are other considerations on interpersonal and professional levels when attending academic conferences, for example: feedback.  Academic conferences provide the perfect setting to test hypotheses though gauging participants’ reactions.  Researchers make claims, then the audience can refute these.  Academic conferences are an element of the academic world which aid discourse.  Furthermore, outside of the formal presentations at academic conferences, in the social gatherings, exchanges of ideas happen more creatively over several glasses of wine.

Additionally, aside from personal interests of researchers, there is the principal reason for academic conferences; to exchange and combine information to result in an advancement of knowledge or the solution to a specific problem.

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