would it be offensive to offer to be respondent/discussant on conference panel?

Started by rabbitandfox23, January 14, 2024, 11:04:23 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

rabbitandfox23

So someone whose work I respect invited me (junior scholar) to collaborate and give a paper at a panel in our area of research he's organizing next year, along with three other colleagues who are senior scholars. I'll be attending the conference anyway as part of the hosting department for the conference, so taking time off and attending isn't the issue. I'm just catching up on a lot of work right now and don't have a paper already in the works on the precise topic.  I'd hate to turn down the collaboration but just feel that I would be spreading myself too thin.  However, I was thinking I could give a short, 10 mins response to the papers as a way to jumpstart general discussion. But I don't know if I would be overstepping my boundaries if I offered to do this, as I feel that respondents on panels are usually senior scholars giving comments/food for thought to junior scholars' papers.  What do all think about this? Should I just bow out completely or brainstorm ways to participate that are less time consuming?
Thank you!

Ruralguy

Its a bit presumptuous, though not really offensive. If it were me making the invite and I got a reply like that I'd probably say "Oh, I am so sorry you can not give a paper. Thank you for your gracious and thoughtful offer, but we have already determined our panel participants. I hope you will think of us for giving a paper in the future. Thank you again, Dr. R. Guy."

Kron3007

The conference is next year, and you are already too behind to commit?  Maybe I am missing something?

Other than that I dont have much in the way of comments as the structure of your conference sounds a lot different than what I am used to.  In my world, the convenor of the particular session would be responsible for overseeing the discussion unless it is specifically a panel discussion or something.

spork

Quote from: rabbitandfox23 on January 14, 2024, 11:04:23 AMSo someone whose work I respect invited me (junior scholar) to collaborate and give a paper at a panel in our area of research he's organizing next year, along with three other colleagues who are senior scholars. I'll be attending the conference anyway as part of the hosting department for the conference, so taking time off and attending isn't the issue. I'm just catching up on a lot of work right now and don't have a paper already in the works on the precise topic.  I'd hate to turn down the collaboration but just feel that I would be spreading myself too thin.  However, I was thinking I could give a short, 10 mins response to the papers as a way to jumpstart general discussion. But I don't know if I would be overstepping my boundaries if I offered to do this, as I feel that respondents on panels are usually senior scholars giving comments/food for thought to junior scholars' papers.  What do all think about this? Should I just bow out completely or brainstorm ways to participate that are less time consuming?
Thank you!

Keep in mind I am not criticizing you specifically.

This is unproductive thinking that is a widespread cultish norm in academia.

"Conference panel discussant" is unpaid labor that will do nothing to advance your career. A peer-reviewed journal publication on which you are listed as a co-author might benefit you, depending on your field, the prestige of the journal, and the prestige of the more senior co-author. If you can't or won't commit to converting a conference paper into a journal article, don't get involved.

It sounds like you've agreed to many other no-benefit tasks that need to be abandoned. Start saying "no" more frequently.
It's terrible writing, used to obfuscate the fact that the authors actually have nothing to say.

Puget

Quote from: spork on January 15, 2024, 04:52:49 PM
Quote from: rabbitandfox23 on January 14, 2024, 11:04:23 AMSo someone whose work I respect invited me (junior scholar) to collaborate and give a paper at a panel in our area of research he's organizing next year, along with three other colleagues who are senior scholars. I'll be attending the conference anyway as part of the hosting department for the conference, so taking time off and attending isn't the issue. I'm just catching up on a lot of work right now and don't have a paper already in the works on the precise topic.  I'd hate to turn down the collaboration but just feel that I would be spreading myself too thin.  However, I was thinking I could give a short, 10 mins response to the papers as a way to jumpstart general discussion. But I don't know if I would be overstepping my boundaries if I offered to do this, as I feel that respondents on panels are usually senior scholars giving comments/food for thought to junior scholars' papers.  What do all think about this? Should I just bow out completely or brainstorm ways to participate that are less time consuming?
Thank you!

Keep in mind I am not criticizing you specifically.

This is unproductive thinking that is a widespread cultish norm in academia.

"Conference panel discussant" is unpaid labor that will do nothing to advance your career. A peer-reviewed journal publication on which you are listed as a co-author might benefit you, depending on your field, the prestige of the journal, and the prestige of the more senior co-author. If you can't or won't commit to converting a conference paper into a journal article, don't get involved.

It sounds like you've agreed to many other no-benefit tasks that need to be abandoned. Start saying "no" more frequently.

I'm not in a field that does conference papers, so my perspective on what conferences are good for is a little different.

For me, one of the main points of conferences is networking -- I've built relationships with people at conferences that have lead to later collaborations, to having people who's brains I can pick on different topics, to people having people to suggest as tenure letter writers, people who send their good students my way for postboc jobs and grad school, etc.

In other words, if the senior people on this panel are people it would be useful for the OP to cultivate relationships with, that makes it worth it.

I would however, try to actually give a talk, as invited, not ask to be a discussant.  At least in my field, the discussant is usually a senior person, so it would be a bit odd to ask, and they very likely already have someone for that role if they are planning to have one.
"Never get separated from your lunch. Never get separated from your friends. Never climb up anything you can't climb down."
–Best Colorado Peak Hikes

jerseyjay

Some thoughts, keeping in mind that your field and university could be very different than mine.

1. If you are going to the conference any way, but right now do not have a paper ready: I would suggest contacting the person who invited you and telling them what you are working on and see if that would fit into the panel. A year is a long time to prepare a paper if you are already researching it, but if it does not fit in with your current research, I wouldn't change topics just for a conference. However, it is possible that your current research might somehow fit into the panel. And if the person says that it wouldn't fit, you really don't need an excuse to not collaborate.

2. Are conferences worth it? If you have a full-time job, then it really isn't true that they are unpaid labor. Yes, in the sense that you are not on the clock. But no, in the sense that they are an expected part of the job, it is legitimate to go while you are getting paid (so long as it doesn't interfere with your teaching) and many jobs pay for conference expenses. Before massive budget cuts, my university paid for one conference a year, and I could go during the school year (within reason), and conference presenting served as evidence of scholarly activity for tenure and promotion.

3. There are also other benefits from going to conferences. Networking is one. Refining research into something publishable is another. Meeting publishers is another.

4. That said, one shouldn't go to so many conferences at the expense of published research. I have seen people whose CVs are full of conference presentations and no publications. That's not good.

5. I would never fly across the country on my own dime to be the chair or discussant of a panel. It is unpaid labor and not particularly prestigious. That said, it is necessary service labor. If you are going to be at the conference any way, chairing or being a discussant is a way to help a conference run smoothly if you are not in a position to present.

spork

Quote from: jerseyjay on January 16, 2024, 04:35:12 AM[. . . ]

It is unpaid labor and not particularly prestigious. That said, it is necessary service labor.

[. . . ]

Again, not being critical of anyone in particular, but I disagree on the "necessary" part. The academic conference model dates back to the horse and buggy era. Today, if I have a preliminary write-up of research that I think is interesting or valuable, I can email it to people for feedback that is far more useful than what I'd get from a panel discussant.

Why do academic professional associations hold conferences? Because they generate revenue for the associations. I'm no longer willing to let these organizations profit from my unpaid labor. If you want me to work, pay me.

It's terrible writing, used to obfuscate the fact that the authors actually have nothing to say.

Kron3007

Quote from: spork on January 16, 2024, 08:22:12 PM
Quote from: jerseyjay on January 16, 2024, 04:35:12 AM[. . . ]

It is unpaid labor and not particularly prestigious. That said, it is necessary service labor.

[. . . ]

Again, not being critical of anyone in particular, but I disagree on the "necessary" part. The academic conference model dates back to the horse and buggy era. Today, if I have a preliminary write-up of research that I think is interesting or valuable, I can email it to people for feedback that is far more useful than what I'd get from a panel discussant.

Why do academic professional associations hold conferences? Because they generate revenue for the associations. I'm no longer willing to let these organizations profit from my unpaid labor. If you want me to work, pay me.



Well, I have met a lot of people at conferences.  Some were external reviewers for my tenure applications, others I list as potential reviewers for grants and papers.  Overall, I feel my career has benefited from conference participation.   

I used to think more like you, that conferences were outdated and could be replaced with virtual options and technology.  Then I attended a virtual conference.......

Overall, building a network is important for your career, especially earlier on while you are building you research profile. Most of this is done over a beer/coffee at conferences and other places.  Emailing papers for feedback (if they even read it) is simply not the same.  It is about the human element, and you can't email a beer.

Also, I don't think conferences are a big cash cow, at least not the ones I have been involved with.  They usually require sponsors just to break even.  Maybe this varies by field or something.

jerseyjay

Are academic conferences "necessary"? Well, in a strict sense, no. You can email people, call them on the phone, etc. And the AHA stopped doing conference interviews a while ago.

That said, I think that conferences are--or can be--important nonetheless. At their best, they allow you to get a sense of new research before it is published, to meet important people in your field, to hash out ideas that will later be published, to meet future collaborators, to hear about job openings. In other words, they do help to network.

Of course, it is probably possible to do many of these in other ways. And you may reach a point in your career at which you don't need to do any of these things.

They also have the potential to meet new people, go to new restaurants, go to new places, hang out with friends, etc. In other words, they have a certain social aspect. I have quite a few colleagues whom I rarely see except at conferences.

Again, of course, it is quite possible to overdo conferences to the detriment of other things--your research, your teaching, your sanity, your family. And while I do not think that conferences are money makers per se, they are really expensive to go to. (I went to a major conference recently, and even though it was within driving distance and even though I didn't stay the full four days, it still cost me at least $150 for annual membership, $150 for conference registration, $200 for [discount] hotel, $150 for meals--which could have been much more expensive.)

For people who do not have full-time jobs that pay for conference travel, I would strongly suggest being (very) strategic about which conferences one attends. I always thought it was unfair when there were job interviews at conferences, and adjuncts, etc., were supposed to fly across the country for a 15 minute interview.

I do not go to conferences every year (especially since Covid), but I do find it is useful to go to some of them.


Kron3007

Quote from: jerseyjay on January 17, 2024, 06:24:39 PMAre academic conferences "necessary"? Well, in a strict sense, no. You can email people, call them on the phone, etc. And the AHA stopped doing conference interviews a while ago.

That said, I think that conferences are--or can be--important nonetheless. At their best, they allow you to get a sense of new research before it is published, to meet important people in your field, to hash out ideas that will later be published, to meet future collaborators, to hear about job openings. In other words, they do help to network.

Of course, it is probably possible to do many of these in other ways. And you may reach a point in your career at which you don't need to do any of these things.

They also have the potential to meet new people, go to new restaurants, go to new places, hang out with friends, etc. In other words, they have a certain social aspect. I have quite a few colleagues whom I rarely see except at conferences.

Again, of course, it is quite possible to overdo conferences to the detriment of other things--your research, your teaching, your sanity, your family. And while I do not think that conferences are money makers per se, they are really expensive to go to. (I went to a major conference recently, and even though it was within driving distance and even though I didn't stay the full four days, it still cost me at least $150 for annual membership, $150 for conference registration, $200 for [discount] hotel, $150 for meals--which could have been much more expensive.)

For people who do not have full-time jobs that pay for conference travel, I would strongly suggest being (very) strategic about which conferences one attends. I always thought it was unfair when there were job interviews at conferences, and adjuncts, etc., were supposed to fly across the country for a 15 minute interview.

I do not go to conferences every year (especially since Covid), but I do find it is useful to go to some of them.




Yes, I would say that I have reached a point in my career where they are not critical for.my success, but even that misses the point. A major part of my job is mentoring and supporting grad students, and they have not yet reached that point.

 As a result, conferences are a part of my job in that sense.  My role has shifted a little.  I am now making introductions for my students and providing them opportunities to present to researchers in their field.  I don't know of a suitable replacement for these opportunities.

As a tangible example, one of my PhD student has been doing some consulting work on the side for a company that reached out about it based on conference connections.  This simply would not have happened without the conference.


apl68

Conferences are probably most important for those who can least afford to attend them--people at smaller institutions who are isolated from colleagues and could really use the opportunity to meet with them face-to-face sometimes.  No, Zoom meetings, belonging to 500 social media, sites, message boards (like this one), etc., etc. aren't really adequate substitutes for occasional face-to-face meetings to talk shop and catch up on what's going on in the professional world.  We're not robots or AIs--sometimes we need contact with other people like us.

Attending professional conferences can be a real challenge for those of us who work at small institutions.  This small-town public librarian only ever got to attend ALA once, when the State Library got funding to send some of us to a rural library sustainability sub-conference that year.  As of this year, I'm even going to have to start foregoing the annual state conference for budgetary reasons.  From here on out it's probably just going to be occasional day trips to the state library.  Fortunately our state capital is centrally located.
If any will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.
For how does a man profit if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?