The importance of attending scientific conferences

I’m moving away from my usual amphibian/reptile conservation based posts to talk about something I feel is very important, so I will keep it short. It may be no surprise to some of you but I spend a vast amount of time each year at scientific conferences, these cover various aspects of my research interests. They are fantastic forums for scientific progress and discussion that can’t be missed, I shall explain why.

Not all of these focus specifically on my field but most do, those that don’t still help inform me and others of skills and methods we can apply to our own research. As a research-focused scientist, conferences are a key part of my success. For an early career scientist such as an undergraduate student, you’re not really expected to attend conferences but it can act as a great way to network with people within your field of interest. This can then lead to future collaboration between yourself and multiple other people, sometimes achieving things you’d only dreamed of. It is one of the main reasons why I attend conferences, the chance to collaborate. Who knows where it may take you? This is particularly true of international collaboration where conferences may be the only chance you’d get to meet that individual.

Name badge and program from the Herpetofauna Workers Meeting earlier this year

My name badge and program from the Herpetofauna Workers Meeting earlier this year, doesn’t it look cool?

One of the other main points about scientific conferences is the line-up of talks. They are usually quite varied but all fit the theme of the event being held, this is a great way to see what everybody else within the field is doing. Sometimes you find out about a project that is closely allied to your own, or you discover a new method you can potentially apply to your own research. If you’re not at that stage then you may get some ideas for a future project or find someone that is happy to supervise you on said future project. There are so many great possibilities that come from attending conferences (aside from the beer afterwards). I would thoroughly recommend the attendance of them to anybody wishing to persue a career in research, plus you get to add to a growing collection of name badges (if you attend enough). Most importantly you get your face out there and the interactions you make may aid you in your future studies!

Don’t let the attendance prices put you off, most give discounted rates to students and you may be able to get some financial assistance from your university/institution. I don’t think I would have gotten onto my master’s degree without the guidance, collaboration and experience that comes from conference attendance.

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Steve Allain

Steve Allain

Chairman at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group
Steve is a current Master's student at Imperial College London and zoology graduate from Anglia Ruskin University. He has a particular passion and focus on British amphibian and reptile species. He is the current chairman of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Amphibian & Reptile Group (CPARG) and helps to organise and coordinate a number of amphibian and reptile surveys around the county, to map the distribution of herpetofauna within Cambridgeshire. Recently he has become interested in the amphibians of the tropics, especially South-East Asia after a trip to Borneo in 2015. Steve was an intern with the IUCN’s SSC Amphibian Red Listing Authority where he specialised in the red listing of South-East Asia’s amphibians. Steve is also a member of the SAVE THE FROGS! Task Force and a former blogger for The Wandering Herpetologist.

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