Whether it’s your first time attending a research conference or you’re trying to find a conference in a specific field to test your research, finding the right event to attend can be a tough task. Which is no surprise as there are over 200,000 research conferences worldwide. With such a vast amount of conferences internationally, it’s important to fully understand how to find a conference that fits your research goals.
Research conferences present an opportunity for your work to come under scrutiny from the outside world. This is a vital part of research or academic conferences: to discuss your work with peers, find out where the quality of your research stands and get feedback from researchers in your field. Preparation is key and it begins the moment you start to try to find a research conference.
The most obvious step when you’re trying to find an academic conference is to do the legwork. Start by searching online for conferences in your field. There are several conference announcement directories that help you find the conferences you need. Using a site like PaperCrowd, you can search for relevant conferences to get an idea of the international conferences in your field. Once you've found a research conference on PaperCrowd, follow it so you get updates from the organisers. You can also use this site to find a link to the conference website, the registration page and any other information you’ll need. Check out this example of a conference page that shows all the important details.
Even at the starting point of your career, there’s a good chance you’ll be familiar with the extensive academic journals or magazines relevant to your field. Quite a few research conferences advertise in these because they can connect directly with their target market: you. It’s wise to check the latest editions of these journals as it often takes quite some time for the latest issues to get to their subscribers and libraries. This means the call for papers in them may already be weeks or months old, leaving you with limited time to respond and submit your abstract.
You can access these journals online too if you have a subscription. In my experience, regularly checking what conferences are advertised in the journals I subscribe to is a great way to keep up to date with the key conferences in my field. It’s a good idea to keep a folder with details on each of the international conferences.
Once you know what’s out there, use your networking skills to identify the key research conferences in your discipline. Ask your fellow researchers what local, national and international conferences they’ve attended and how beneficial they were.
There’s also a wealth of experience in your local academic department. Quite a few conference organisers reach out to the heads of academic departments, don’t hesitate to reach out to your own department or contact your local university and ask them which conferences they recommend.
These word-of-mouth recommendations will help you identify which conferences in your field are worth considering. And they provide you with an opportunity to check out if your peers are familiar with the conferences you’ve followed on PaperCrowd.
Once you have found specific academic conferences that appeal to you and your research interests don’t hesitate to subscribe to their newsletter. You can find out all the important information leading up to the academic conference, and it allows you to be the source of information to your peers. You will then get the newsletters for each of the following annual conferences.
When you’re trying to find a conference to submit to, make sure the conference matches the timeline of your research. Ensure you have most of your work completed before submitting a paper or abstract to the conference. Take your time with your writing and to increase your chances of getting accepted, understand fully when you need to have your abstract submitted by. It’s also worth noting the various methods by which a call for papers could be sent out, the last thing you want is to have missed out on the perfect conference for your research.
High-quality conferences will have an early call for papers (4-11 months beforehand) due to their peer review process. Some research conferences demand a full paper for submission and others request an abstract or extended abstract. If you’re under time pressure with your submission, consider the quality of your work and decide whether to attend a different conference, submit your semi-finished paper or to hold on for next year.
Unless you work in a niche field of study there should be more research conferences than you can fit into your schedule. So it’s important you also identify what you want to take from your experience as an academic at the conference.
Treat the conference as a military operation: preparation is crucial. When you’re choosing a conference you need to read up on what type of researchers will be there and identify the type of person you want to network with. The guest speakers and organising or scientific committee will give you an idea of the type of researchers who’ll attend. Understand the geographical scope of a conference and your study. You don’t want to travel across the world only to realise that the conference doesn’t match your academic goals.
Conferences can be costly. When you’re identifying potential conferences to submit to, assess the price of attending if it’s available. Some research conferences open submissions and announce their fees simultaneously, but others may announce their registration fees later. There are a number of costs you need to evaluate: the cost of registration; the cost of accommodation close to the venue; and the cost of travelling to the destination.
If you hope to be presenting, check for grants, bursaries or other financial help available from your university, research institute or the conference itself.
There’s often help available for early-career researchers to attend conferences. If you’re seeking financial help to attend a conference, it can often be easier to get approval for conferences that are relatively near and don’t require long-haul flights. Whether you are aware of it or not, budgeting is crucial to attending a conference. The last thing you want is to make plans to attend a research conference in your field of study and then have budgetary concerns stop you from attending.
If you’re still struggling to find conferences relevant to your studies, have faith in your skills and organise your own. You may look at this as a massive undertaking but even if you are at the start of your career this is a great opportunity that is rewarding, fantastic for networking with other specialists in your field, and it looks great on your CV. For the first event, you don’t need to organise a massive event, you could start small with a one-day academic conference and invite several key speakers. You can use the key speakers to promote the conference for free on social media and through their networks.
You would need to look at external and internal funding you could get through sponsorship, through your department or from other research institutions. Reach out to your academic peers who have organised conferences in the past and get advice from them on funding and logistics. Don’t rush this process, get involved in discussions on organising research conferences, take your time and get as much experience as you can before you run the research conference. Check out this ebook on conference planning.
While it’s important to find a research conference that matches your research goals, you have to ensure it’s not suspect. Early-career researchers who are working hard to improve their resume/C.V. are often capitalised on by companies who hold poorly organized, profit-fueled conferences.
These "predatory conferences" are not organised by scholarly or professional societies. These don’t use a peer-review system and often have high (and rapid) acceptance rates and charge excessive fees to attend.
Predatory conferences usually falsely claim that certain researchers sit on their organising committees, they also have an overly broad scope of topics and often feature several conferences focused on different disciplines being hosted in one venue. If you’re not sure if a conference you’ve found is predatory or not, cross-reference the conference name or organisation with Bealls list of predatory conferences and publishers , or check out Phaedra E. Cress’s journal article on predatory conferences. Attending a predatory conference can be a costly mistake for your research and your budget.