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...

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