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How to keep track of academic conferences without losing your mind

[This is a guest post by Stan Kurkovsky, a professor of computer science at CCSU.  Stan and I are teaching a course abroad next year called Secrecy: Science & Fiction. (I totally can't believe I've never heard of the two resources Stan mentions near the end of the post!) -- JBJ]

One of the greatest rewards of an academic career is the ability to travel to conferences, present your research work and network with peers from other institutions. The process of getting your work published inevitably involves long hours of invested in a research project with your colleagues and/or students, reading a substantial amount of background literature, and perhaps conducting some experiments. This post, however, is about what happens next – how to keep track of the multitude of research conferences to find the one that is just right for you, your very specific research topic, and held at a location where you actually wouldn’t mind going.

Some faculty often find an annual conference that they attend every year, which is usually made more attractive by holding it at different locations. Such events are ideal for maintaining ties with others who attend the same event and often become a kind of an annual reunion of old friends, as much as an academic conference. If one wants to expand their horizons, or find a good place to present their work at an academic event with a specific or a more narrow topic, there are a number of ways to find that perfect conference, symposium, or a workshop.

Mailing lists

Subject-related mailing lists are often the best source for up to date information about upcoming conferences publicized via Calls for Papers (CFP). Many professional societies (of which the reader certainly is a member!) maintain such lists for exchange of ideas, discussions, as well as publicizing events on topics that could be of interest to the readers. One of my favorite mailing lists is maintained by the Communication Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. In most instances, such mailing lists are open to everyone regardless of membership in the corresponding society. Some of these societies, however, may only allow their members to post messages to the list. Maintaining a subscription to such a mailing list or regularly visiting its archives provides a constant flow of new information about publishing opportunities as they are announced by their organizers. Depending on the popularity of the mailing list, the number of messages could vary from one or two per day to one or two hundred per week. To make this flow of information manageable, it helps to set up one or more filtering rules to move these messages to a dedicated folder in your email client. Allowing your email client to flag messages with specific keywords that match your specific research interests could make it easier and more fun – consider what you can do if you are looking for a conference on computer security in France.

Calendars, meta-calendars, and more

Many of the professional societies mentioned earlier maintain calendars of conferences and other events they sponsor. Searching multiple calendars on a regular basis quickly becomes rather cumbersome. Thankfully, there are a number of meta-calendars for conferences and similar events that collect information from various sources. By far, my favorite is Eventseer. This service not only allows it users to search its database of conferences using multiple criteria, it also provides a service to track different events for any changes that their organizers may post. For example, if you are tracking a conference, Eventseer will notify you if there is an extension of the paper due date. While Eventseer is largely focused on technical subjects, AllConferences provides a similar service but in a much wider array of topics. Both of these services are free, but Eventseer is a clear winner in terms of the number of events in its database.

As a Computer Science professor, my research interests naturally lie in that area, but I often find myself looking for conferences in closely related fields, such as Computer Engineering, and Management Information Systems. Consequently, many elements of this post are related to these specific areas. Undoubtedly, there are similar mailing lists, web sites, and tools aimed at other disciplines. How do you keep track of academic events and upcoming conferences?  Let us know in comments!

Stan Kurkovsky

Image by flickr user mamamusings / CC Licensed
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