Expensive academic conferences give us old ideas and no new faces

Expensive academic conferences give us old ideas and no new faces

(Christoph Haug) #1

Here is an excerpt from the above article:

Fixing academic conferences is not rocket science. Most early-career scholars would likely welcome it if future conferences were hosted in universities instead of four-star hotels. The next generation would probably also not mind if parts of conferences went virtual. We suspect that very few would protest if cocktail receptions, banquets and dance nights were dropped to invest more in conference grants.
Unknown faces would come to these conferences, not just the academicbourgeoisie. Meanwhile, more rigorous peer-review of conference abstracts may decrease the number of participants, but could help to ensure that the work presented is thought-provoking. These types of conferences may even impact policies.

Slowly, academics have started experimenting with the current conference format. Seminar leaders at World Water Week now feedback presentations prior to the conference to enhance their understandability. Meanwhile, the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association of the UK and Ireland will hold a conference that is entirely virtual this early September. Many more of these initiatives are needed, though.

Most academic conferences are oversized. Even the privileged few that can attend them rarely find at them what they hoped for. The academy frequently claims that it is a champion of social justice and diversity. But the academic conference business underscores the hypocrisy of this claim.

What do you think?

(David Gibson) #2

I dislike our annual conference: it’s too big and too expensive. But I have colleagues who thrive on the opportunity to re-energize their networks and to binge on new research. Relocating to a university sounds tempting but in my experience universities view such events as opportunities to make their own piles of money.

(Claire Feeney) #3

I’m terribly late to this discussion but it caught my eye and I have to agree. As a PhD student I find the cost of conferences even with discounts and concessions to be breathtaking.

It’s surely an issue in that I’m sure it reduces diversity, not just at the conferences, but in research in general. Even with assistance, an international conference is a big commitment financially for post grad students. We have very small budgetss to apply to that will essentially go on one trip if it’s not a ‘home’ conference so I think the issue is that many simply cannot afford the often steep fees plus all the other costs involved in travelling and attending. Bursaries would help.

That said, I do think that the networking events and activities can be really important especially for early years’ researchers. I’ve been to a business conference that was too big, with too much breadth to be really useful, and to more specialist events which have proven hugely useful, interesting and energising but my experience is so far quite limited - mostly for the aforementioned financial reasons. Ask me again in a year!