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Friday, October 12, 2012

The Conference Paper Trap

Conference papers are an easy way to get some items on your cv. In my field, acceptance is very easy for regional conferences, and only somewhat difficult for national and even international ones.

So what's the problem? There are several. Since acceptance is easy, it doesn't count for much. People know that many talks are going to be crappy, so the achievement of doing it isn't impressive. Graduate students feel good that they can get their ideas out there, but conference papers are rarely cited as works of scholarship. At colleges that doe not require very much research, conference papers count as "activity," but a cv with many papers and few articles looks bad for tenure reviewers. Finally, a research agenda driven by conference deadlines sometimes does not allow for self-imposed deadlines or the development of the papers into articles.

So what to do? Give up conferences? No. I would suggest going to them, but making sure that virtually every conference paper leads to an article. If you go to 10 conference in 3 years, you should also be submitting 7-8 articles. If you are not, then cut down on the conferences: go to 3 or 4 and submit 3-4 articles.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is a trap, but one can also say: conferences are to get to a metropolis with a bookstore and to have interviews, not to build vita; give papers that show presentation skills and more but do conferences as a sideline.

I've always heard they were good as reachable deadlines and so on but I disagree: all that effort to make sure you have a paper that fits the right division is effort that could go into your book. (I speak from experience.) Therefore, do them, do as many as you can afford in fact, if you do not work at a university with speakers and symposia, but do them as a sideline.