It’s time to rethink academic conference funding

Melonie Fullick, University Affairs, Jan 21, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I'm sympathetic with the points made in this article, I really am. The whole business of paying money to attend an academic conference is a barrier to participation, and this is exaggerated when you're a student or non-permanent staff. Now maybe I'm not the best person to comment, since I don't pay conference fees any more. But looking back at my own presentations it's pretty easy to see what my strategy was when I was young and (literally) hungry. I used my graduate assistantship to pay for attendance at one national graduate conference a year. Everything else was local, sometimes really local. I gave twenty-seven presentations inside Canada (most of them in my own province) before I ever spoke internationally, not counting an online talk I did for UMUC. Being an academic is a lot like being a comedian. Sure, it's great to visit and work Just for Laughs or Comedy Central. But you have to play a lot of local clubs first. Do the work.

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