The value of conferences?

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Really interesting post in Times Higher Education – the right conferences can leave you on a real high, but I’ve also been to the type described here – which sees only selfish & impolite behaviour…

Participating in conferences, symposia and other scholarly forums is a recognised element in the job description of any academic. In the era of regular and intrusive research evaluation exercises, being the recipient of an invitation to give a keynote address is a valuable addition to the curriculum vitae as an indication of esteem; there is also a chance that it could be leveraged into an aspirational form of “impact”. In the absence of the ego massage of such an invitation, an academic may nonetheless feel the heavy hand of research management pointing to the professional networking potential of conference participation and the banal necessity of professional visibility. Personal commitment to their subject, and their career, will also impel most academics to seek the opportunity to present a paper to an appropriate scholarly audience. It is therefore readily apparent that there are significant pressures that lead academics to commit to presenting an academic paper.

Intellectually, such opportunities hold out the possibility of testing one’s data and analysis before a critical audience of peers. Through such dialogues, academics may belatedly and serendipitously discover what they are really trying to say. Or, they may find themselves crushed as long hours of preparatory work result in the revelation of a foundational flaw in their method or argument. More typically, however, they are likely to feel that they have extended the visibility of their work, and themselves, and gleaned valuable insights into their paper’s strengths, weaknesses and potential for elaboration.

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