Despising conferences? SLAC researchers

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Despising conferences?  SLAC researchers ences at a SLAC.  And I've been hating conference for years.  Used to love them.  But now when I go it's just me - no one else in my field at my institution.  My old advisors have moved on into administration.  Those in university positions show up with teams of students and postdocs and chat with colleagues they've been working with all year.  I give my talk, and do well.  But students don't seek me out because I don't have graduate or postdoc positions to offer, and no matter how good my science or how many grants I have the university folks aren't really sure I'm a "real" researcher.  Ok, I get that.  I go occasionally to get "out there" - get involved judging presentations and pitching in - but I'm wondering about the time and money.  At $2-4k and a week of lost work time it's hard to justify going anymore.  I could use the $ to visit colleagues and actually get work done.  And the irony of flying cross country to present research on the perils of climate change to wearing on me.  I think I will just get my grants, publish my 2 papers a year, serve on review panels and can the conferences.  Is this just the SLAC researcher path to slow career suicide?  Back on campus my career is going very very well. 

I don't go to conferences on a yearly basis anymore, more or less for these reasons.

I definitely don't (can't!) go for a full week. Usually just two nights.

If your school's travel money is applicable to collaborations at other schools, then yes, use it for that.

Just make sure that "attendance at conferences" isn't an explicit tenure requirement if you start NOT going to them.

I don't see why its "career suicide". Its a definite divergence from colleagues at an R1, but you'll just have to live with that.

The "career success" is just different...its measured by working with an enthusiastic undergad, getting a teaching award,
getting a pedagogy grant from NSF, etc.  Sure, R1 folks can do all that too, but its more typical for a SLAC person's success to
be explicitly measured in these ways. 

Repeat after me "I am not my Phd Adviser"

Failure to realise this is the reason many folks become disenchanted with perfectly acceptable, rewarding, excellent careers.

I'm also in the sciences at a SLAC, and I probably wouldn't go if I didn't have lots of friends from grad school for whom our annual conference is our one chance to catch up with each other. A couple of times I've thought, 'This time could be better spent working on a paper right now'...and I've holed myself up in my hotel room and cranked out some writing.

I'd say the other reason to go to conferences is to show the folks at your home campus that you're active in the field, but if you're publishing 2 papers a year, getting grants, and serving on review panels, you don't need conferences to show them that, do you?

One final thing: I organized a symposium at my conference last year and it put me in touch with a bunch of people I wouldn't otherwise have met--lots of fun, a little cat-herding, a little annoyance, but overall it gave me a jolt of energy and helped with my networking.

Students didn't seek me out either, and I didn't care.  I enjoyed seeing old friends, and, years ago, shacking up with my girlfriend for a week. 

I think this really is field-dependent, and also varies enormously by your focus. Certainly there are conferences where one won't be sought out without a large lab, filled with grad researchers and post-docs, but that is not true of all of them. Conferences with a pedagogical strand, for example, are likely to be filled with other faculty from SLACs and PUIs who are interested in discussing both research and teaching. Conferences that are designed for faculty who work with undergrads will have lots of options for SLAC faculty, and for their students, too. 

One of the best parts of moving to a SLAC for me is the freedom. I have been able to get away from the insanity of the enormous, wildly expensive conferences. No longer to I need to attend AERA, with 18,000-28,000 crazed colleagues, 5-6 days of events, and hotel rates upwards of $200 a night. Now I can go to two or three of the smaller and more specialized conferences in my subfield each year, where the conference lasts for three days and the conference hotel rooms are (at most) $130-140 a night. Often  can stay at a hotel nearby for $100 or so, in fact. I can talk to my friends and colleagues about topics of interest, take part in panels, help mentor grad students who are working on research in the same area, and feel like a human being.


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