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InquilineKea

Academic conferences - are they worth the cost?

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I'd like to present my research at http://abscicon2012.arc.nasa.gov. But the costs (conference+travel+hotel costs) - which might approach $1000, are a bit of a deterrent.

On the other hand, the networking opportunity might be one that may be impossible to get anywhere else. But there's always a chance that I might get no networking at all.

I can understand that conferences were very important in the pre-Internet era. But now it's simply easier just to find people you're interested in and to email them. They might be more accessible in a conference (since they're prepared to "waste" their time there), but is that accessibility worth shelling $1000?

Also, what happens during most of the days of the conference? It's 4 days long.

Hm... there are a lot of topics in the 2010 session: http://www.lpi.usra....n2010/a-f.shtml

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And the costs for other conferences seem quite prohibitive too. See http://www.ifa.hawai...meetingcost.htm, for example. $465 *just* to attend the session. And that's not even including travel+hotel costs.

==

I believe that Sean Carroll (at cosmic variance) also mentioned that it's not the presentations that people are into - but rather - the opportunity to talk to one another after the presentations.

Edited by InquilineKea

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While it is true that you can find collaborators on the internet, conferences allow you to make personal connections with other scientists and I don't think that will go out of style anytime soon. And it is really fun to see Dr. X, who you have cited a million times drinking margaritas and dancing badly :)

A lot of meetings offer travel scholarships, and your institution probably has some funds for that type of thing. Going through the process of getting reimbursed is sometimes a hassle, but it beats paying your own money.

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Ah yes - thanks for all the info! Yeah, it's a massive debate that I'm having with myself right now.

Also, I'd like to ask the same question with respect to workshops too. Like http://www.cesm.ucar.edu/events/

Same travel expenses and lodging expenses. Then you also have event expenses too (which could vary)

And how does the worth of attending them compare with the worth of attending conferences?

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I've never gone to workshops but I attend my discipline's annual meeting every year. I also attend one other conference (either regional or specialty-based). Yes, it is expensive. But, it's also worthwhile. I get to see friends and colleagues, network and meet potential future collaborators, get advice on my career, etc. To me, it's absolutely worth it. It does help that we get some travel money from our department and that there are university-wide travel grants we can apply for as well. As a result, my out-of-pocket expenses are pretty minimal each year. Even so, it's one of the things I just set aside money for to make sure it can happen in case something happens with grants. Oh, and I use it as an excuse to go visit cool places.

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I loved going to conferences as an undergrad and it really shaped my research interest for grad school. But I always was fortunate to be funded for my expenses. I would try to get some funding from your school because 1000 is very pricey for a conference.

Best of luck!

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Conferences are really valuable experiences. That said, I've always had funding to go.

If you don't have funding right now, can you find some closer (or cheaper) conferences to start out with? Student conferences often have low (or free) registration fees.

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I'm a complete conference junkie* (I love them), so I'm willing to fork up SOME money to go to REALLY good ones. I mean, for me, it's really good academically and intellectually (with all the talks and posters), socially (hanging out with friends in the evenings), and professionally (networking, meeting other researchers, drinking with other scientists, etc). That said, I still try my best to get my school to pay, and if they don't, I try to find the absolute cheapest deals on flights/hotels etc. If the conference registration is expensive... well, there are some options. I once attended a (v. small) conference that was $500 for the week (with no daily rates), but I only wanted to attend two days. I emailed one of the professors about a daily rate, or undergrad rate, or something, and he told me just to show up. And so I did.

I may have also snuck into a conference before, but I don't necessarily encourage that.

* note: definitely keep this in mind as you read my post, seeing as how I'm a bit cray cray.

oh, but to answer your question about what goes on during a conference: nothing but really intense science 8am-5pm, if not longer. With bigger conferences, you have the option of going to talks or posters, but with really small ones, they may have a set schedule of talks-posters-talks. There should be socializing in the evening, too. After 4 days, you are totally mentally exhausted. It's fantastic.

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Haha wow - very interesting! Damn - I really should go to one sometime.

Is it possible if you could just skip the hotel they're suggesting, and maybe just couchsurf or possibly just briefly live with someone else in the university?

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Is it possible if you could just skip the hotel they're suggesting, and maybe just couchsurf or possibly just briefly live with someone else in the university?

Yep, that's entirely possible. Many grad students will try to room with other grads and will host others when there's a conference near them. I also know people who prefer to purchase flight+hotel deals that turn out to be cheaper than getting the conference hotel. You might miss out on some of the activities, depending on the conference and its organization, but it's certainly an option. A lot of students also share rooms to save costs, btw. I once stayed in a hostel instead of in the fancy hotel the conference was held at. There are many options for saving money. As for couchsurfing, that's an option but it can sometimes not work out like you plan. You should, at the very least, have a backup plan (=enough money to get a room at a hotel last minute).

Edited by fuzzylogician

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Haha wow - very interesting! Damn - I really should go to one sometime.

Is it possible if you could just skip the hotel they're suggesting, and maybe just couchsurf or possibly just briefly live with someone else in the university?

Conferences really are a good time. I end up drinking far too much but it's great to see people and catch up, learn about other people's research, and explore a new city with a whole bunch of other people visiting.

I've been to 8 conferences and I've only stayed in the conference hotel once. Usually, I end up either staying with friends in the area or splitting a hotel room at another hotel with other grad students. I try not to share with more than three other people and I avoid hostels, just because I like knowing that I have a quiet place to sleep and relax and prepare for my presentation. Obviously, staying with friends (sometimes those in grad school or attending the conference, sometimes not) is the cheapest option and often comes with the ability to cook dinner/breakfast and save money that way. In fact, I sometimes decide to attend one conference over another because I know I have a place to stay inexpensively. That said, I almost always end up eating out for lunch and dinner so I can catch up with people.

Honestly, you have to think of attending conferences as an investment in your career and as an important part of professionalization in your discipline. Seriously, there's a guy that I met at a conference and have kept in touch with for 4-5 years now that has helped me think through my post-PhD plans and is giving me the opportunity to be a visiting scholar and adjunct at his university. This probably wouldn't have happened if we were just communicating over email.

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Oh cool. Yeah - I agree - connections are super-important. Although much of it is dependent on chance. Finding someone you "click" with is something that can SERIOUSLY catalyze one's career (sort of like Watson and Crick). The only problem is that those people are far and between.

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