Saturday, February 28, 2009

Conference Paper Writing

I am excited that I have reached the point in my science career where I have enough data and results to be presenting papers at conferences. I am a mechanical engineer, as I have said, and my specialty is machine design. This means in particular I know a lot about manufacturing, design, and control systems. Can we say quals topics? :)

I have presented at two conferences so far - one last November, and one this January. The one last November is a yearly conference, and the call for papers for this year's conference came out a month ago or so. The deadline for the abstract is this Monday. So this weekend I am working on the abstract I am going to submit- it'll be on the design and testing of machine I built for manufacturing. No - you don't say...

Can you believe it's that early? Before I was a grad student, I had no idea how papers and journals and conferences worked. I assumed, silly me, that scientists would lay down some hot science, write up the data and results, and then sumbit it to the most relevant conference.

Ah, no.

Most conferences ask for abstracts to be submitted WAY in advance. Like this one - abstract in March, full paper in June, revised manuscript by August, conference not until November. So most people haven't even done all the work yet that they plan to put in the paper - they just write the abstract based on what they have already done plus the projection of what they will do by the deadline. Scary.

And there is a whole politics juggle about what conference to submit to. The best conference might not be the most relevant, and the most relevant might be too far away or expensive for the lab to send you to. You can't submit the same content to two different conferences, but you can submit the same content to the journal that sponsors the conference you presented at, so you have to plan ahead to what journals you are aiming for.

And don't get me started on journals and the juggling that goes on there. My next career step, which my advisor and I have talked about, is submitting my first journal article. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it...

What it all boils down to, I gather, is that you want to share the hot science you have created with the people who are going to care about it. So really all the choices you make about when and where, what and who you publish your work with... all those choices are just supposed to help you share the answer you have found with other people who might be up against the same question.

And of course, say the conference just happens to be in, oh - Florida - purely hypothetically, of course. Well, then obviously the people working on the same question you are will be there. Right? Right.

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