This week I have in mind the business of academic conferences. Prospectuses and assessment timetables don’t make any mention of the time you spend on them, but as a postgraduate they are a necessity not just to showcase research but to gain skills transferable to the mythical world of real-life/post-doctoral academia.
The problem with the two main outputs from a doctoral degree is that the thesis itself is too blooming long to effectively communicate it all to anyone aside from your supervisor and examiners. A conference paper, on the other hand, at around 3000 words is too short to deliver much more than a generalised observation of a topic with some loose connection to a wooly theme (that is the raison d’être for the whole gathering).
Today I’m writing a paper for which I feel like my use of theory is rather simplistic, and making statements that if questioned on I could talk about length about the reasons I could happily disagree with myself on that point. I’m also making meal choices for the outing and sending some biographical information for the programme which is a useful procrastination task. This evening I have a Skype meeting to delegate tasks for conference organisation. My inbox pings daily with calls for papers, registration reminders and calls of distress from peers also managing the business of conferences. To tell the truth, almost every aspect of conference attendance seems to be some grand exercise in the administration of research and employability.