Conferences

Why is attending academic conferences so important?

Academic Conferences help you to advance on your career

What is so important about a bunch of scientists gathering together to discuss their research? Let 's find out.

Roberto Rodríguez R.
Roberto Rodríguez R.
Chief Academic Officer

The American Psychological Association (APA), defines an academic conference as “a one-day or multi day event during which researchers present their work to each other. Conferences are an important way researchers stay connected to others in their field and learn about cutting-edge scholarship” (Buddie, 2016). Simple as it is, the definition entails more than just a gathering of like-minded individuals that discuss what they’re doing.

Academic conferences have a unique value for their attendees: they represent career advancement opportunities in various fronts. In fact, Due to the perceptions of a high Return of investment (ROI), academic conferences have become a “must” for the scientific career. As the following figure from the University of Edinburgh shows, during a researcher’s career, the only thing that changes in respect to conferences is the role they play. While a junior researcher presents a conference poster or paper, more experienced scholars coordinate panel discussions, or participate as invited speakers. Mid-career and Senior/Advanced researchers organize conferences and participate as leading experts in their field, often presenting the Keynote.

Figure 1. Academic career stages. Source: University of Edinburgh

Why are they so valuable?

Publications. Let’s face it, despite the many critiques of the current “publish or perish” model, publications (often measured through the number of citations) remain as the main indicator of academic success. How big is the impact here? Oester et al. (2017) surveyed the attendees of the International Marine Conservation Congress and 64% of the participants acknowledged that the ideas, contacts and lessons learned, led to publications.

Moreover, it’s not just about going to conferences but choosing the RIGHT conference (the qualitative side). Gorodnichenko, Pham and Talavera (2021) found positive links between conference presentations and publications in high quality journals. According to the authors

academic institutions should have effective mechanisms to encourage and support researchers to present in the high-quality conferences. By doing so, both researchers and universities can benefit from improved research performance (more publications in high-quality journals) and increased research dissemination (higher visibility) (p. 242, 2021).

Keep up with the newest research. Conferences provide a platform for researchers to present their work, get feedback, and learn about the latest developments in their field. This can lead to new insights and ideas for further research. Nowhere else an academic is going to find all the researchers that work on their topic.

Networking. These events bring together researchers from all around the world, providing excellent opportunities for networking. This can lead to collaborative research projects, job opportunities, and new professional relationships. In the above mentioned study by Oester et al, a shocking 91% of attendees considered that attending a conference got them networking opportunities with their peers.

Find Respected Speakers in your field. Organizers spend a lot of time looking for scientific leaders in their respective fields to be keynote speakers (I.e., Nobel prizes).

Learning New Information and Skills. Often cover a broad range of topics within a field, which can provide attendees with a wider perspective. This can be particularly beneficial for interdisciplinary research and for understanding the broader context of one's own research. Additionally, they get new skills from “satellite” events such as training programs that take place as part of the conference offerings (known as pre-conferences).

Improve Communication Skills. During a conference you have the opportunity to present your research to your peers. You must be able to share the main ideas of your work in a very limited amount of time. This means that you must prepare beforehand so you are clear and get the most out of the questions other researchers may ask you and the feedback you’re going to get. Practice makes perfect.

Want to forget about financial issues attending conferences? At Sofiago we help you get to conferences without hassle. We to pay for your registration and travel in advance and you pay us back when you get your reimbursement from your university or grant. Apply here.

References:

  • Buddie, Amy M. (2016, September 1). Academic conferences 101: What they are, why go, how to present and how to pay for it all. Psychology Student Network. https://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/psn/2016/09/academic-conferences
  • Edelheim, Johan R., Kimberly Thomas, Kajsa G. Åberg & Giang Phi. (2018). What do conferences do? What is academics’ intangible return on investment (ROI) from attending an academic tourism conference? Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism, 18:1, 94-107.
  • Gorodnichenko, Yuriy, Tho Pham, Oleksandr Talavera (2021), Conference presentations and academic publishing, Economic Modelling, 95, 228–254 https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/conferences-mean-high-times-low-returns
  • Oester S, Cigliano JA, Hind-Ozan EJ and Parsons ECM (2017) Why Conferences Matter—An Illustration from the International Marine Conservation Congress. Front. Mar. Sci. 4:257. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2017.00257