Questions about conferences for a TT newb

Jan 06 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

At the risk of blogging too much and upsetting certain readers, I'm going to do the unthinkable and post twice in one day.

I asked the following question this afternoon on the Tweets (Twits?) and promptly got the following answers:

I then followed up with Gerty on how many conferences she presented at:

Then the following discussion ensued about whether or not attending/presenting at conferences was really considered service:

Lots of helpful input here, but I'm still on the fence about a couple of conferences on the horizon. There is at least one big meeting in my field that I WILL attend, no matter what. Another two that would be good to attend, since they'll have a lot of the big players, but not so much a requirement, per se. In at least one of those cases, I won't even have time to put an abstract in for a poster because of timing, and it would be rushed with the move and all.

So my questions for the wider audience here are:

1. How many conferences is too many / too few for a first year TT prof?

2. Must you present at all the conferences you attend, or is attendance purely for the sake of networking a good enough reason to go? What is a good balance? And is it silly to submit a poster abstract just for the sake of presenting something?

3. How much of a *requirement* is conference attendance for tenure? In other words, if I haven't been invited to give any talks at this point (since I haven't even arrived at my new job yet), and don't end up getting invited to any this first year, should I really be planning on going to more than 1 or 2 of the most *important* conferences in my field and sub-field?

Maybe this shouldn't be an issue until I arrive at TTU, but Hubby travels for his job, too. So I'm trying to get the probable meetings I'll attend on the calendar now. Part of the two-body lifestyle, I guess.


13 responses so far

  • Zen Faulkes says:

    1. Too many variables to answer.

    2. The only limitation I've seen for attending without presenting is in some cases, if money is tight, travel funds may be given to people presenting over people who are just attending. In general, I don't recommend an abstract unless you have something to sat.

    3. In my department, it is a requirement. It's explicitly spelled out in the tenure documents. Since other people have done the Internet equivalent of looking at me funny when I say this, I gather this is unusual. It wouldn't surprise me if it's off the radar in most places.

  • The answer to all these questions depends on what kind of institution you are at and at what level of prestige.

    • Dr. O says:

      MRU, maybe top 25

      • Then you need a national reputation to get tenure. That means you need people in your field outside your institution to know who you are to write you letters for tenure. That could involve interactions at meetings, but it's not about some bureaucratic functionary counting how many meetings you've been invited to, like that zen dude is talking about. As far as I can tell, he is at a place that is very far below what we are talking about.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    In the first year I either talked about postdoc stuff or didn't talk. I used to network and went to three. As time went on I've had students do most of the talking and I network. As far as a requirement, Zen's comment is the first I've ever heard of that. Use conferences as a venue to let people know you have you're own shop. It's important for a lot of things and you need to spread the word. It also helps to bounce research directions off people you trust and get some feedback. You never know if they will be reading the proposals soon.

  • Bashir says:

    This may also depend on field. In some areas not participating in conferences basically means you don't exist.

    Though CPP is pretty much on target.

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    In part it depends on funding availability. As I recall, I attended one convention my first year, 1965, on tenure track. In 2006, having not been active, I attended my first convention at which I did not present. At my institution presenting at a convention was considered meritorious. Having a student present was even more meritorious. I think if one is to be a scientist, one needs to meet in person people in the field. Networking and all that is very important.

  • Glfadkt says:

    CPP hit the nail on the head. Also, beware submitting some minor (just a step above preliminary) or negative findings as a "poster abstract" just to get on the program. In my experience, this is exactly when the program committee will decide to overlook your preference for a poster and have you present that scientifically low-grade info as a platform talk!

  • Dr. O says:

    I'd never think of presenting a poster at this phase without something solid to present. I actually have some really great stuff, which will be the focus of my future research program, that is nicely shaping into a manuscript. I have some experiments needed to finish things off, but it would be nice to get input as to how much really is needed from potential reviewers. I'd LOVE to give a talk on it, but know it's unlikely since I've fallen a little off the radar with my maternity leave earlier this year and all. Or at least I feel like I have.

    Many of my potential manuscript reviewers, however, will be at the smaller conference that will be a schedule squeeze, and I'd love to present my stuff there in some form or fashion. However, I worry about 1) whether it will look odd for a PI to be presenting a poster and 2) if I'll have the time to get the abstract submitted in the midst of our move. It will probably be a last minute decision, but I really wanted to get a *feel* for how important my attendance would be.

    As an aside, my future chair specifically mentioned conferences as an aspect of service for tenure. Whether or not it's specifically spelled out as a tenure requirement is another story, but it was made clear that getting out there was important. I think how *spelled out* it is (maybe) comes down to how involved the institution wants to be in your success. (???) But I know it's important to get out there, I just wanted to get a feel for the give and take from a few different faculty folks out there.

  • CoR says:

    I had a PO (who is in my sub-field) tell me not to do >1 meeting per year. I'm not so sure about that. The PO's point was that you need time to spend developing really really good grants and getting research up and running in your lab--too much time away in your first couple of years could backfire.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Odd for the PI to present a poster? Put down the CPP KoolAid!

  • POs are very unlikely to know jacke dicke about how you should be balancing your various areas of scientific effort. Talk to just pre- or post-tenure faculty at your and other institutions to get a read on this.

  • DrLizzyMoore says:

    I've done about 2 conferences a year since starting my TT job (I just started year 2....). Since I know you have a K kinda have to have a plan, which helps for juggling many travel TTU considers attending meetings as part of our 'Professional Development' and 'Scholarly Activity'. We also get 'points' for being invited to another institution to give a talk. Although I have not heard of peeps being denied tenure from lack of meetings attended....

    I've presented a poster at the smaller meetings. I'm not getting on anybody's radar by being a wall flower. Also, since I am a junior faculty, we don't have the publishing machine cranked to full capacity (or any capacity, really)--so to get on people's radars I need to be at meetings talking about my science.