IEEE is one of the largest organisers of research conferences in the world. They sponsor approximately 1400 conferences every year, and have created a fantastic video on why conferences matter.
Video courtesy of IEEE.tv
The conference setting is essentially the social platform for researchers. Researchers spend most of their time working behind a computer screen, and rarely get time to engage with people in their area outside of that. The face-to-face relationships that can be developed at conferences is therefore invaluable. These relationships can often begin with a coffee, a chance meeting in a hallway, or over dinner in the evening.
Conferences are a fantastic place to network and share ideas. When a researcher submits an abstract to a conference, they get invaluable feedback both during the review process and at their presentation. You don’t have to be presenting at the conference to benefit. The conference setting offers presenters and attendees an opportunity to come together, discuss their different viewpoints and brainstorm. Sub communities can grow from the conference, and these communities can potentially collaborate in the future and even spawn their own conferences.
Students and early-stage researchers can also learn a lot from attending conferences, both as presenters and attendees. It is the perfect place to showcase their research and get feedback but it also opens up the opportunity to meet experts in their field of research. The experts on the other hand get introduced to the new ‘kids on the block’.
Conferences can be crucial whether you are trying to enhance your career, looking for collaboration opportunities or simply trying to expand your network.