Saturday, January 12, 2008

Abstract Submissions to Conferences

Sometimes I really ought to read the fine print on conference abstract submissions before I get all excited about submitting my research and committing to going to one. I found a new conference I haven't yet been to yet. What worries me is that I have to register for the conference up front - which costs about $400. I can pay by credit card, which is fine, but what if my abstract doesn't get accepted?

I have no interest in paying to go to the conference, any conference, really, if I'm not going to be able to add a line to my CV - the one immediate benefit from presenting research at one. They don't say that they refund conference registrations if your abstract isn't accepted, so I'm inclined to pass on it.

The thing is, I won't be reimbursed for the conference registration, hotel, food, and flights to the conference, which could easily add up to about $2000. So I have to figure the cost-benefit ratio of going. Am I going to receive $2000 benefit from it? Even if I am accepted, which I am certainly not guaranteed to be, I would have to stand a good chance of meeting people with whom I can post-doc with or who know of good academic positions or field research opportunities.

But I'm not even sure that's the direction I want to go. Field research is expensive; there are few grants or paid post-docs to compensate for the equipment, food, shelter, and special medical insurance needed for 3-9 months in a tropical location, let alone the thousands of dollars it costs to get to and away from the remote field research sites. Plus, it just doesn't fit with my life goals right now.

I could easily say the same thing about a post-doc. I don't really want to move all the way across the country again for a position that pays less than what we bring in right now in income. Sure, I could look at it as a temporary set back to our standard of living, and that after the post-doc is done, I will be in a better position for tenurable position and more money than we bring in now. But that's not guaranteed - not at all.

The conference is in a pleasant location and the line up of symposia speakers is exciting. It could be a great place to meet, mingle, and network with the right kind of people - that is, if I want to steer toward animal research and away from human psychology.

The icing on the cake? They don't allow you to hook up your own laptop for presentations. They want you to format it on a PC, put it on a disk, and present on a PC they provide. That's all fine, really if you don't mind using PCs, but for me that means the extra hassle of putting my presentation together only to have to go to the computer lab on campus, find one that has PowerPoint , and reformat it on a PC. That's an hour right there for no good reason at all.


EcoGeoFemme said...

It's crappy that they can't support macs, but I have never been to a conference where they let presenters use their own computers. Too much down time between talks.

Stink that you have to pay for yourself. Can you set up meetings with potential employers in advance to ensure you'd have good networking time?

Psychgrad said...

Do you have any idea what the rejection rate is? It seems pretty crazy to me to expect people to pay a $400 registration fee if their abstracts end up not being accepted and there's no reimbursement.

yellowfish said...

I hate things with such huge registration fees... it was a giant eye opener for me, the conference I had gone to all through grad school for ~$60 suddenly became like $250 now that I'm not a student. As if they pay postdocs that much more!?

I agree though, the paying up front is pretty weird.

Field Notes said...

I don't know what the acceptance rate is. I'd guess it's around 40-50% but I may be way off. I think they assume that you'll attend regardless of whether you're presenting, which makes sense, I suppose. But, not if you're a student or won't receive departmental or institutional funding.

I've been at a few conferences, where presenters could hook up their own laptop while the previous presenter fielded questions. As long as the session chair is organized and keeps things running smoothly and on time, it isn't a problem, at least in my experience.

I decided that as much as I'd like to go, the high cost and little return on the investment is not worth it. There are other conference that will be less expensive upfront and overall - and will also be better for networking.