Five reasons to attend a scientific conference

As an academic, is it mandatory to attend scientific conferences? What are the benefits?

An academic is required to conduct research and disseminate the results of that research to the scientific community, while at the same time demonstrating the contribution of his or her research to the body of knowledge being explored.

There are several ways to disseminate the results of such research. The most common way is to write a publication in a scientific journal. Another way is to present papers at scientific conferences. Unfortunately, not many people see the value of scientific conferences beyond publication. Here are some of the benefits of attending scientific conferences.

  1. Form of publication
    Obviously, the main benefit of attending a scientific conference is to get our work published and known amongst the scientific community. Some scientific conferences offer the publication of proceedings, which in academia, is a form of publication that arguably has the same value as a journal. Other conferences do not provide proceedings but offer collective publication in a journal in the form of a Special Issue. The conference organizer (or session chair) can submit a Special Issue proposal to a journal, and then the manuscript review process is managed by the proposer (he/she acts as a Guest Editor in that journal).
  2. Informing the scientific community of what is being done
    When our articles are published in scientific journals, we compete with thousands to millions of other articles to be recognized and read by others. Scientific conferences are the perfect vehicle to promote our scientific articles, as well as to promote ourselves as someone who is an expert in a particular field. By making a strong impression at scientific conferences, other scholars will be able to associate certain fields/topics/scientific arguments with us, thus increasing the chances of citations.
  3. Receive criticism and feedback on the work presented
    Some academics often bring drafts of their manuscripts to be presented at a conference, to gain feedback from colleagues and other academics. It is not uncommon for the presented paper to be ‘incomplete’, and at the end of the presentation, the presenter may ask the audience for their honest opinion on the next direction of the discussion. In fact, there are cases where the presented paper leads to the coauthorship of a fuller paper as a result of input and co-authoring with other academics at the scientific conference.
  4. Get an update on the state-of-the-art in the field discussed at the scientific conference
    An important factor in writing a scientific publication is demonstrating the contribution of our research to the body of knowledge and current scientific discourses. Finding this in journals can be like finding a needle in a haystack – it’s hard to know which works are relevant and novel in a particular field. Through scientific conferences, we can receive direct updates on the state of the art, and ask direct questions about the relevance of our research to the body of knowledge. It is often the case that academics acquire new reading materials after the conference.
  5. Building a network of researchers for future collaboration
    Finally, academics need to see conferences as a means to build networks with international researchers. This is often missed by new academics. We often hang out with people we already know or are too focused on presenting our own scholarly work without the curiosity to delve into other people’s work, make acquaintances, and build networks. We also often focus too much on the big conferences that lead to proceedings, whereas smaller conferences, especially those with close-knit networks, are ideal spaces to get to know each other and academics better.

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