Thursday, August 6, 2009

Payment for Conferences

I am currently registering myself for a conference where I am presenting this fall.

Usually I use a lab-issued credit card to make purchases (I find this much more convenient than asking the secretary to order things for me, and I'm sure she appreciates it too). But there are restrictions on the card - and one of them is travel. So I can't put the conference fees or the hotel fees on the credit card.

I can charge it with my own credit card, but I don't get reimbursed until after the conference. This makes sense, the rule is there to make sure people actually go and don't just book stuff without following through. But the conference is in October, and it's kind of a lot to ask grad students to float the money for that long, especially when reimbursements can take up to five weeks after you turn in the receipts when you get back.

But you know what? I can make it work. And you know why I'm not inclined to complain about this?

Because my lab has always paid in full for my conferences.

I didn't realize this wasn't standard procedure until I was talking with another student who was trying to decide if going to a conference was worth the cost he would have to pay from his own pocket. Some PIs I know only pay your air fare, and you have to get your own hotel. Other PIs have a cap on how many conferences they will pay for each year. I think the policy varies depending on the PI, the state of funding for the particular lab, and whether the professor thinks it is worth it for the student to go. I mean, I can understand not wanting to fund a student to go to seven conferences in exotic locations per year.

But now I'm curious - if you are in a lab, how do you decide what conferences to attend and who foots the bill?


  1. I've never had that issue either, but then again going to conferences is not my goal at the moment. Graduation is! My PI typically pays for everything, but there are school sponsored funds that we dip into once a year per student, which helps. A few other conferences that I've gone too, the grant that I was on funded travel with my PI paying the difference.

  2. I don't go to a conference unless my advisor (or a fellowship) foots the whole bill. I believe that is the standard in my department. My advisor and I discuss which conferences I will attend based which include sessions that match my research the best. If the conference very expensive to attend, I believe my advisor may act as an ambassador for the group.

  3. I have never heard of a student or postdoc having to foot a portion of a conference bill.

    Look into getting a travel advance to cover registration, etc. that you'll be paying for ahead of time. Also, you can use a campus-approved travel agency and have your grant billed directly for your flight instead of having to use a credit card at all.