We surveyed our readers to find out if they attend scientific meetings and why they do. Of the 282 who responded, 81% travel to one or more scientific meetings every year. An inveterate 13% go to more than three meetings per year.
Readers ranked the importance of various reasons for attending conferences on a 1-to-5 scale, with 5 considered very important. Three motivations stand out: Attending formal lectures and sessions (4.4), meeting informally with colleagues (4.3), and visiting poster sessions (4.1). Visiting the commercial exhibit (3.0) came next. Sightseeing (2.9), attending social functions (2.9), and seeking employment opportunities (2.4) were the lowest-ranked reasons.
"We who are supported by federal funds should not use scientific conferences as a front for a vacation or a seven-day binge of overindulgence in free beer," says one reader. Why not, says another: "We only have an allowance to go away once during our PhD study, so we make the most of it. Social functions and sightseeing are very high on our list!"
A frequently voiced comment concerns meeting size. "I prefer small, focused meetings over the larger ones, where it is hard to find the colleagues in your field for specific discussions," says one attendee.
Conference size aside, this scientist has more practical reasons for going: "The more you learn, the more you earn."